Recession Leads to Increase in Internet Scams

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DES MOINES, IA—In this increasingly bleak economic climate, internet-based scams and electronic embezzlement cases are up, report Des Moines police.

Part of the reason is due to the increase in personal computer ownership and use, which has led criminals off the street and onto the information superhighway. It’s easier to commit fraud and other white-collar crimes as people become more and more reliant on the Internet to conduct transactions.

Just ask Imee Reyes, who agreed to buy a truck from a user on the Internet site SellMyCar.com. After contacting the seller, she was referred to a man who claimed to work for a payment processor, AlertPay. That man told Reyes to wire nearly $3,000 as a down payment on the truck. The next day he requested more money. When Reyes tried to contact the man at AlertPay, she learned she’d been scammed.

Consumers are warned to be particularly cautious when conducting any transaction online, says Police Detective Ray Carrington of Des Moines. “When this happens, I tell people to tell as many other people about it as possible.”

Between January 1st and February 25th, the Des Moines police fraud unit investigated over 100 embezzlement and scam reports, up almost 50% from the same period last year.

The increase in Internet fraud is due to several factors, say experts. More and more people are using the Internet, and using it to conduct financial or retail transactions. The popularity of sites such as eBay, craigslist and other local classified services makes it easier to shop online – and easier to steal online. And as electronic transfers make the use of cash obsolete, white-collar crimes are replacing street crime such as robbery and burglary.

Furthermore, as prices increase, job prospects decline, and federal lawmakers continue to debate over corporate bailouts, individuals are becoming more and more desperate. The recession is making criminals out of once-honorable folks, and this trend is only expected to continue, at least until the economy experiences an upswing.

Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group also reported two embezzlement cases recently. One alleges misuse of a corporate credit card to the tune of $100,000. The other report concerns an employee who allegedly took $20,000 from the company.

 

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