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On Your Side Alert: FBI warns about fake government services sites

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A warning from the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center says criminals are creating fake government service websites in order to steal your money and personal information.

Your next search online could lead you to a bogus site designed and controlled by cybercrooks. IC3 posted a warning alerting the public to use caution when searching for government websites for things like a replacement social security card.

FBI Special Agent Adam Lee says those bogus sites typically pop up first in your search results. "Some of the challenges I think that law enforcement faces is the sophistication of the fraudsters that are present online," he said.

Be warned these fake sites will look very legit. Crooks will even charge you a fee and collect information, like copies of your birth certificate and driver's license. By the time you realize it's a big scheme, it's too late and you have to work to repair the damage. "There is always a risk. There is a risk for all of us, even for me," Lee said.

The FBI says many times crooks are overseas. If you fall for the scheme, the criminals stop all contact and tracking them down to get your money back almost never happens. To protect your money and information the FBI offers these tips: 

  • When dealing with government sites, look for .gov domains instead of .com. 
  • Research the advertised services or company. 
  • Be cautious when surfing the web or responding to advertisements and special offer. 
  • Always be suspicious when dealing with companies overseas 
  • Maintain records for all online transactions. 

"We are always playing defense on the threats that they pose for folks when they engage online or in good faith and think they are talking to an agency over the phone," Lee said.

If you fall for one of those fake government sites, crooks could commit a number of crimes using your name, including creating fraudulent IDs and passports. If you think you've been a victim you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov.

Links:

http://www.ic3.gov/media/2015/150407-2.aspx

http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

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