AVG Signal Blog Security Scams How to Recognize and Report an Internet Scammer

Written by Carly Burdova
Published on May 12, 2022

Have you been hit by an internet scammer?

Unexpected downloads, odd charges on your payment cards, and strange social media behavior on your online accounts are some of the telltale signs that you’re the victim of an internet scammer. The internet makes it easy for hackers and scammers to trick you into handing over personal info or money.

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    From deceptive social engineering ploys to the seemingly innocent click of a button, internet scams are everywhere. One scammer may want to steal your Netflix password, while another tries to hack your router or entrap you in a webcam scam. Scammers will use any trick in the book to get your money or sensitive information.

    But before you can report an internet scam, you first need to determine if you're a victim, and what type of scam you’re a victim of. Keep reading to learn how the scam type determines how you should report it.

    How to report an internet scam in the US

    First, you need to determine the type of scam you’ve encountered. Then, you need to report the scam to your local police department, Internet Service Provider (ISP), and payment card company. After that, the actions you take are determined by where you live and the scam type you experienced.

    If you live in the US or think you've fallen victim to a scam in the US, there are many institutions to which you should report it. Keep in mind that most claims for US-related scams require you to have US-based contact information, like an address or phone number.

    To report an internet scam in the USA, you need to determine which type of scam you've encountered. To report an internet scam in the US, you usually need to have US contact information and knowledge about the scam you’ve encountered.

    Report the scam to your State Consumer Protection Office

    Reporting the scam to your State Consumer Protection Office is a good place to start. The SCPO provides contact details (both phone and email contacts) for specific state departments — like Banking Authorities, Insurance Regulators, and Utility Commissions. They even include county-level office contacts.

    1. Go to the SCPO website.

    2. Select your state or territory.

    3. Identify the type of fraud you wish to report.

    Report the scam to federal agencies

    If the scam is severe enough and crosses state borders, the reporting needs to escalate from the state level to the federal level. If appropriate, report the internet scam to the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center, all linked below.

    Report intellectual property theft to the Department of Justice (DOJ)

    You can report all types of internet crimes to the Department of Justice, including online hacking, identity theft, and fraud emails. You should also report crimes relating to intellectual property theft to the DOJ.

    If someone has committed copyright piracy or trademark counterfeit, the DOJ will direct you to the appropriate government agency, and provide information on how the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center works.

    Here’s how to find information on reporting intellectual property theft via the DOJ.

    1. Visit the DOJ website.

    2. Click Report a Crime in the Quick Links section and go to Computer and internet crime.

    3. Select Reporting Intellectual Property Crime from the list of options.

    4. Click Reporting Intellectual Property Crime again to see a list of contacts.

    Report fraud and pyramid schemes to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

    The Federal Trade Commission maintains a fair market for consumers. As an independent agency, the main mission of the FTC is to enforce antitrust laws and promote consumer protection. To report fraud to the FTC, go to their Report Fraud website, click Report Now, and follow the prompts to complete your claim.

    Reporting fraud to the FTC via their dedicated website, led by easy-to-follow prompts.

    Although the FTC can’t investigate individual cases, they can bring known cybercriminals and scammers to justice through this type of fraud reporting. By reporting all internet scams you encounter, you can help bring down cybercriminals.

    Report online and ecommerce businesses to the Better Business Bureau

    The Better Business Bureau (BBB) seeks to make online shopping and ecommerce ethical. To file an online shopping fraud complaint or complaint for an ecommerce scam, scroll down on the BBB homepage and click File a Complaint.

    The Better Business Bureau helps consumers take action against poor or illegal business practices.

    After a series of prompts you can file a specific complaint or even get direct support for receiving compensation. The BBB takes consumer complaints seriously and has an average turnaround time of 30 days to close a complaint.

    Report economic spying and major cybercrimes to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICCC)

    The Internet Crime Complaint Center — also called IC3 or ICCC — is a branch of the FBI tasked specifically with internet crimes. Start your claim process by clicking File a Complaint on the ICCC homepage.

    File an internet crime with the IC3 using their File a Complaint form.

    After confirming you want to file an internet scam complaint, read the terms and conditions and begin your claim. Complete the single page form to submit your official complaint to the ICCC.

    Report the scam to the FBI

    Reporting scams directly to your local FBI field office should be reserved for cases involving threats to national security and hate crimes. All reports of internet scamming and fraud should be reported to the ICCC — the FBI’s cybercrime investigation branch.

    How to report an internet scam in the UK

    If you've encountered an internet scam in the UK, there are several ways to report it. You may need to report it to a different institution depending on whether you've been a victim of phishing, fake software, identity theft, online trading scams, or social engineering schemes.

    Report phishing

    If phishing is attempted through email, such as a tech support scam, first contact your internet service provider (ISP). BT, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, and all other ISPs operating in the UK have their own approach to handling phishing emails.

    As a secondary measure — or if phishing occurs over the phone or via text message — report to the National Cyber Security Center. The NCSC requests that internet phishing websites be reported using a specific scam report form. Forward scam emails to report [at] phishing [dot] gov [dot] uk, the government's Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS).

    Knowing how to report phishing calls or scam numbers can help national services catch phishing perpetrators more easily — they track activity through mass reporting to pin down the scammers.

    Report fake software distribution

    Fake software — including pirated digital content such as TV, films, or sports — can be reported to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) using their online form.

    You can also report the scam to Action Fraud, the UK's National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Center. They ask the public to report fraud using the Action Fraud report form on their homepage, or to call 0300 123 2040.

    Report fake software in the UK to Action Fraud using this simple form.

    Report identity theft

    Depending on the level of severity, report identity theft to Action Fraud or the local police. Action Fraud offers reporting for multiple types of internet scams, including identity theft. Start an identity theft report on the Action Fraud homepage by stating if you are reporting as the victim or on behalf of someone else.

    Report identity fraud in the UK using the Action Fraud website, starting on the homepage.

    You can file your report as a guest or registered user. Guests receive updates on their case by email or post, while registered users have more options for being updated about their case.

    If the identity theft is severe — or puts you in immediate danger — contact your local police department immediately.

    Report social media account misuse

    If your social media account has been hacked, report the incident directly to the specific platform. All social media sites have their own process for dealing with scams. Here are some of the most popular social media sites’ help centers:

    Here's an example of how to report a social media scam on Facebook:

    1. Open the Facebook Help Center and select Policies and Reporting.

      Use the Facebook Help Center to find ways to regain access to a hacked account.
    2. Depending on the type of scam you’ve witnessed, select Reporting Abuse, Reporting Privacy Violations, or Hacked and Fake Accounts. For this example, we’ll select Hacked and Fake Accounts.

      Facebook Help Center provides several options for hacked accounts or reporting privacy violations.
    3. Choose the situation that best applies to you, such as “I think my Facebook account was hacked or someone is using it without my permission.” Guided Help will assist you with account recovery.

      Report a hacked Facebook account and regain access using Facebook's Guided Help feature.

    Report social engineering scams

    Social engineering is a complex crime. It's best to contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and Action Fraud. Action Fraud even has a dedicated reporting tool if the social engineering was specifically related to dating.

    So if you want to know how to outsmart a catfish scam or other kind of romance scam, Action Fraud is your partner in crime prevention and reporting.

    If social engineering was connected to online dating, Action Fraud is the place to report.

    Report online trading scams

    The first step of reporting online trading scams is to report it to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). You can also report it to the UK government's Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) using report [at] phishing [dot] gov [dot] uk. National Trading Standards also has a scam team to provide support and information about online trading scams.

    Types of internet scams

    There are myriad ways to get ripped off or cheated online. Hackers can hijack your webcam to spy on you and scammers can trick you into revealing sensitive information or visiting malicious websites. Here are the most common internet scams.


    Just as a fisherman puts a lure in the water to attract fish, phishing scams put lures on the internet hoping to attract victims. The lure could be a fake email, fake advertisement, or a spoof of an official institution. Once you take the bait by clicking a malicious link or giving away your personal info, you’ve been hooked.

    Fake software

    Scammers use hoax emails, pop-up windows, display ads, or other scareware to advertise fake software and fake software updates. The software is often a fake antivirus, and if you follow the links, you risk being hacked or making your device vulnerable to exploitation.

    If you suspect you've been contacted by a fake software scam, report it immediately. And only use trusted antivirus software from reputable providers. AVG AntiVirus FREE has been protecting users from phishing attacks, ransomware, and security exploits for over 30 years, with award-winning threat detection.

    Identity theft

    Identity theft can result from falling for a phishing attack, and the consequences can follow you around for years. That’s why knowing how to report a scam is crucial. That way, if a scammer steals personal information — including PINs, credit card details, passwords, and logins — they can be stopped before they’re able to commit identity fraud.

    Social media scams

    If fraud occurs on social media, it's considered a social media scam. Many scammers and fraudsters hide behind games, quizzes, and apps. Social media scams can also involve hackers accessing your account, then tricking your friends into sending them money or sending out phishing links. Read about the top Facebook scams so you’ll know what to look out for.

    Social engineering

    Social engineering is one of the most common techniques cybercriminals use to scam people online. Criminals use sneaky techniques to learn something intimate about you. Then they use that information to lure you in further — possibly to the point of a full-on romance scam. This breach of trust can be emotionally (and financially) damaging.

    Online trading scams

    Online trading scams are any type of scam that convinces you to send, spend, or invest money on a fraudulent trading platform or under the illusion of returns. Fraudsters promote fake online trading platforms, often by advertising them via social media platforms. Conduct a website safety check for any suspicious site that promises unrealistically high returns or fast cash — particularly for cyptoassests like bitcoin.

    How can I get my money back from a scammer?

    Getting your money back from a scammer depends on the payment type and where the scam occurred. IT’s never a guarantee you’ll be compensated for your loss, but reporting an internet scam to the right institutions in the US or UK is the first step in getting your lost funds back.

    If you paid by cash and sent the cash by mail, there's a chance that the postal service can intercept the package. Call the relevant postal service at 1-877-876-2455 (US) — or 0345-722-3355 (UK) — to learn more. If you used an alternative courier service, contact them immediately.

    If you paid by payment card or PayPal, contact your payment card company or PayPal and report the fraudulent charge immediately. Request that the transaction be reversed or charged back.

    If you paid via a wire or money transfer, contact your bank to report the fraudulent transfer. Request the wire transfer to be reversed and your money sent back.

    If the scammer made an unauthorized payment from your bank account, contact your bank and tell them you fell victim to an unauthorized debit or withdrawal. Ask for the transaction to be reversed and your money to be returned to your account.

    Stop scammers with trusted antivirus

    Internet scams are everywhere online. But, there are still ways to remain safe. Using AVG AntiVirus FREE helps you close the doors on hackers before they can get to you. Our phishing protection blocks unsafe links and websites seeking access to your personal information, and our 24/7 threat detection software keeps your device secure around the clock. Let AVG block and catch the scammers before they catch you.

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    Carly Burdova