The internet is still like the wild, wild west - you can use it to find fortune, fame, or even love.
It is also a minefield of online scams - some that are simple and easily avoidable, and others that are complex and often successful.
For example, police have finally caught the Nigerian prince who has been scamming Americans for the past decade: a man "who served as a go-between for an international team of scammers running a 'Nigerian prince' email scheme" was recently arrested in Slidell, Louisiana.
How can I avoid online scams?
And, what should I do if I have been accused of an internet crime in SC?
The "Nigerian Prince" Scam and How to Avoid It
There are endless variations on this and other online scams, but it generally goes like this:
You get an e-mail from someone claiming to be from a wealthy African family. Because of financial problems and political persecution in their unstable homeland, they need your help.
If you just will let them hold their money in your bank account, they will give you a cut of their fortune. All they need is your account information.
But, once you provide your banking information, the embattled prince's money never shows up in your account - instead, your hard-earned cash vanishes.
How to avoid:
First, if a stranger offers to share their fortune with you, they are probably scamming you. That's just not how life works. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...
Identify this kind of scam by looking for sloppy writing, poor spelling, and mangled grammar, or, well, the fact that they are offering you easy money...
Most importantly - never share your money or your banking information with a stranger, no matter what their story is.
The "Catfish Scam," Dating Scams, and How to Avoid Them
Just like the financial scams, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...
Online scammers will use the promise of sex, just like they will use the promise of easy money, to reel in unsuspecting victims.
You might meet a wonderful, beautiful, sexy man or woman online. Are they for real? They have a Facebook account and a twitter feed, they talk to you on the phone, and you may be falling in love... could it be true?
Scammers create fake identities online to:
- Steal your money in the "long con;"
- To take advantage of vulnerable people - adults or minors;
- To take your money;
- To commit sexual assault or other sex crimes;
- To commit robberies; and even
- To commit murder.
How to avoid:
Catfish are usually too good to be true - the fake person is too beautiful, too rich, and too glamorous. Their identity has been tailor-made to appeal to you.
And, they move too quickly toward intimacy. If you suspect you are being catfished, do a Google Images search on their photos. Or, contacting one of their social media friends can often unravel a fake identity.
The obvious way to avoid being scammed is to not look for love on the internet - go out, visit friends, go to a bar, join a social club, but look for love in the real world with real people.
If you do find yourself looking for love online, protect yourself and understand that there may be as many scammers out there as there are real people looking for love...
The FBI Agent Scam
This one is happening right now in South Carolina and most likely other states as well.
You sign up for a dating Web site, and soon you hit it off with an amazing 26-year-old woman who is just perfect for you. You chat and share photos, and soon she is sending you photos in various states of undress. She talks dirty to you, and you talk dirty back.
Then, you get a phone call from her father who says he just caught his 14-year-old daughter making a sex video for you and he is going to call the police.
Then, an FBI agent calls and says he's investigating you as an online sex predator. He then tells you that, if you pay an amount of "restitution" to the girl, he will close the case and you can walk away from it. Your caller ID says the phone call is coming from an FBI office in Myrtle Beach...
In some cases, you will then get a phone call from a "local attorney" who demands that you make the restitution payment to their "client," the underage girl's family. If you make the payment, the next step is the FBI agent will ask for your social security number or other identifying information that would allow them to hack your accounts...
Of course, there is no FBI agent, the "attorney" is not the attorney whose name they used, and there is no underage (or 26-year-old) girl.
How to avoid: Never send a naked or otherwise inappropriate photo of yourself to a stranger. If your online relationship reaches that point, demand a real-life meeting before you go any further.
If you do find yourself in this situation, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately and let them handle it for you - the scammer is relying on your fear that you may have committed a federal crime and your desire to make it go away quickly.
SC Internet Crimes Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
The best way to avoid these kinds of scams is to remember this: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Contact your SC criminal defense attorney immediately if you think you have been scammed and someone is shaking you down for money.
If you have been accused of an internet crime in SC, get your SC internet crimes defense lawyer involved as soon as possible, and do not make any statements to police until you have met with your attorney.
Your Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates will investigate your case, help you to prepare your defense, and help you to locate and retain the right defense experts when needed. Your lawyer will get your case dismissed, negotiate the best possible outcome, or take your case to trial.