How to Report an Online Scam

For many online consumers, money (or the power of it) hovers quietly and invisibly over an online shopping cart only to be set free with a single click. That reality extends to our kids who have become eager consumers in the age of Pay Pal, Amazon, confirmation numbers, and free shipping. And, Christmas spirit or not, that emotional reality makes us all vulnerable to scams this holiday.

According to The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3, over 269,000 online scams were reported in 2014. IC3 tracks current online scams, which include: auction schemes, identity theft, debt elimination, cashier’s checks, credit card fraud, phishing, and more. So before you say “that will never happen to me,” check out this full list of schemes circulating and read in detail what each scheme looks like online and the sophisticated ways in which crooks lure victims. Share the scam list with your family and teach each member how to spot the traps.

Here’s a way to get and keep the #SafeHoliday conversation going with your family and where to report an online scam.

Talking points for families:

No one is immune to scams.

Very intelligent people get scammed all the time. Keep communication with your family open and overly insistent (borderline annoying) when it comes to teaching your kids how to make smart online purchases.

Slow down (caution before cart).

It’s exciting to find the perfect gift or buy yourself something online no one else at school has. However, if you ever want to see that item, slow down, evaluate the purchase and the site it’s on, and be sure the site is legitimate before handing over a credit card number.

Reinforce the value of money.

Cart clicks and entering a shipping addresses can emotionally depreciate the true value of cash. Require your kids to pay you back in cash for online transactions you allow to be put on your credit card. Have your child physically count the cash back to you and understand what it takes to earn $10, $20 or $30. You’ll be amazed how a child’s clicking will slow down when it’s his or her own money being spent.

Supervise transactions.

Don’t just hand over the plastic. Take the time to run through several transactions with your child, don’t leave them to chance. Coach them along each step of the online transaction. Teach them to evaluate the website, read reviews, and analyze what personal information is required for a purchase. Before submitting payment information, make sure the URL is secure. The payment screen should have “https” instead of “http.” Use a credit, rather than a debit card for online transactions, and if you really want to be safe purchase gift cards with set amounts and use them solely for online purchases.

Set consequences.

Have clear consequences in place if your child or teen abuses your credit card or fails to follow the privacy guidelines you’ve put in place. It’s never okay to give out a social security number, credit card information, or authorize a personal check or to purchase from an online vendor not approved by a parent.

If you think you may have been scammed:

  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you are outside the U.S., file a complaint at
  • Visit, where you’ll find out how to minimize your risk of identity theft.
  • Report scams to your state Attorney General.
  • If you get unsolicited email offers or spam, send the messages to If you get what looks like lottery material from a foreign country through the postal mail, take it to your local postmaster.
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