If you’ve been the victim of an online scam, one of the first questions you might consider is how to report the scammer online. However, you may quickly realize it’s not as simple as telling the local authorities. Internet crimes are much more complicated and typically involve a higher law enforcement agency, usually the FBI. Evidence on the internet can be quickly concealed, so time is of the essence for internet crimes. So, how do you get in touch with someone to report a scammer online?

Gather Evidence

Before you contact the FBI, it’s important to gather as much evidence of the scam as possible. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Screenshots of messages
  • Names (even if the name used by the scammer is fake)
  • Pictures of the scammer (even if they’re fake)
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Physical addresses
  • IP addresses
  • Website domains
  • Bank statements (or other proof of funds moved)
  • Social media handles
  • Third-party payment app handles (Venmo, CashApp, etc.)

Even if the online scammer used fake information, that is still valuable evidence. It’s possible that this same person has used this pseudonym, email, or phone number in previously reported scams, which can lead to a quicker resolution. 

Contact the Internet Crime Compliance Center (IC3)

Once you’ve collected your evidence, submit a complaint to the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliance Center (IC3) to file your case. The IC3 is an FBI agency that handles specifically internet crimes. They accept reports of internet crimes such as:

Inside the IC3 report, you’ll get a chance to tell your story to the FBI. Ensure that the information you provide is factual and clear to the point. In this report, they’ll ask for the following information about the scam:

  • Your identity (who is filing the complaint)
  • The victim’s information (you or someone else)
  • Financial transactions 
  • Description of the incident
  • Information about the subjects (the scammer(s))
  • Other relevant information

If you’re trying to report more than one online scam, make sure to submit one report for each instance.

IC3 Investigation

Once the IC3 obtains your report, they’ll analyze the information provided. If the IC3 refers your case to be investigated, they may refer you to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency to provide additional information and a statement. Depending on the complexity of your case, the investigation may take some time to complete. If the investigation leads to the scammer’s arrest, you’ll be notified and may be eligible for financial compensation as part of a criminal prosecution. 

However, it’s important to note that not all reports filed with the IC3 will lead to an investigation. Online scams are alarmingly common, and if it’s not investigated, they will be filed along with similar complaints used to identify patterns that may be used to support future investigations. So even if the IC3 does not investigate your case, the report will be logged, and there could be a resolution in the future if it’s proven to be part of a pattern. 

Bank Notification

This isn’t to report the scam but to report to your bank that some transactions were related to a scam. Each bank will handle these situations differently, so it’s important to quickly notify your bank of any lost funds and signs of fraudulent activity. Make sure to note the specific dates, times, and accounts related to the scam; your bank will need these details for your case.

Website Notification

If you’ve been in contact with the scammer on any website or app, go through the proper channels to report them to the platform. For example, if you’ve messaged them on Instagram or sent money through Venmo, report the profile within the website or app. Before you do this, make sure to have gathered as much evidence from the profile as you can. Once you report the profile, it may be removed immediately, and you could lose access to valuable evidence. 

Contact local law enforcement

While your local sheriff’s office may not investigate online crimes, it may be a good idea to report it to them anyway. If the scam is a local scam, such as vishing scams that impersonate law enforcement officers, you should definitely notify them. Just like with the IC3, even if it doesn’t get investigated right away, it’ll be logged and can be used to build up the case in the future if more evidence is found. If you feel that your personal safety or the safety of others is in danger, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement agency.

Consider Hiring an Online Scam Investigator

Outside of the IC3, you may want to consider hiring an online scam investigator to investigate your case. Online scam investigators, like ActiveIntel, are experts at identifying financial fraud patterns and online scam tactics. Depending on the evidence you have gathered, an online scam investigator may be able to trace bank accounts, phone numbers, email addresses, and more in an effort to track down the scammer and recover your lost funds. While you can do this investigation independently, an online scam investigator has the resources and expertise to know the patterns to look for. In addition, if the case ends up in court, your investigator can provide you with expert witness testimony on the evidence they’ve found, which can help build credibility in your case.

Realizing you’ve been the victim of an online scam is a painful experience, but you don’t have to go through it alone. The first step to recovering from an online scam is to report the online scammer, then get started with an investigation either through the IC3, an online scam investigator, or independently.

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