A new group of criminals has adapted to the Internet, emailing consumers for money and creating imitation sites that mimic legitimate companies and financial institutions for the purpose of tricking consumers into revealing their personally identifiable information. Law enforcement, the public and state and federal government agencies must work together to protect Internet users -- especially the most vulnerable -- from Internet crimes and fraud.
In November 2007, New York became the first LawHelp site to facilitate such collaboration with the launch of “Internet Fraud: Crimes and Prevention,” a new topic area covering a wide range of Internet fraud and crimes. The new topic area on LawHelp.org/NY, also accessible via www.GetNetSmart.org, is devoted to increasing awareness and helping Internet users prevent and report all types of Internet fraud and crime.
"Low-income people are disproportionately affected by Internet fraud -- a single incident of identify theft or of being victimized by a phishing scam can wipe out essential resources and put a person or family at risk,” said Leah Margulies, Project Director, LawHelp.org/NY. “LawHelp/NY is proud to break new ground within the legal services/lawhelp community in bringing online this comprehensive resource on Internet fraud. And we're grateful for the support provided by New York's Office of the Attorney General, which gave us the opportunity to develop this site."
According to a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report on Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data, in 2006 consumers reported paying more than $590 million to Internet criminals.
New York ranks high among the states for Internet fraud and identity theft complaints. The FTC received 21,129 fraud complaints and 16,452 identity theft complaints from New Yorkers in 2006. The same year, New York ranked 8th in the nation in identity theft complaints per 100,000 people.
A majority of consumers do not report online fraud, though according to the FTC such reporting is critical to help stop unlawful operations. The public is often not aware of the resources available online and in their communities for reporting and preventing Internet crime. The new topic area on LawHelp.org/NY is a unique portal to more than 500 such resources in 24 substantive subtopics, including “Email Scams, Hoaxes & Spam,” “Phishing and Pharming” and “Reporting Internet Fraud & Crimes.” The resources -- from law enforcement agencies, not-for-profit online safety groups and government agencies -- were chosen for their usefulness and accuracy and reviewed by a team of experts.
Resources on the site include: tips on avoiding identity theft via email scams and online hoaxes; protecting online privacy in chat rooms and on social networking sites (for example, this brochure on safe online dating); reporting unsolicited email messages (“spam”); and helping victims recognize and report online crimes and cases of fraud. The site includes local and federal law information; all written for the lay person, so visitors can recognize and report Internet crimes promptly to authorities.
The site includes resources in English and Spanish, and a growing number of resources are being translated into other languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
The launch included a six-month, statewide education campaign focused on training low-income communities and their advocates about Internet fraud and crime issues and how to navigate the new site, with a special focus on seniors, immigrants and youth.
The Office of the New York Attorney General awarded LawHelp/NY a significant one-time Consumer Cyber-Awareness grant to launch the Internet Fraud topic area on the LawHelp/NY site, as a response to the growing trend of Internet fraud and crimes.
LawHelp/NY is a collaborative project of the City Bar Justice Center, Empire Justice Center, The Legal Aid Society of New York City, The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Legal Services NYC, New York State Bar Association, Pro Bono Net and Volunteers of Legal Service. Other major funders include The IOLA Fund of New York State and the New York Community Trust.
For more information on the Internet Fraud topic area, contact Leah Margulies at firstname.lastname@example.org