Mass Marketing Fraud

June 25, 2010

It’s called mass marketing fraud, and the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center, IC3, is working hard so you don’t become a victim of fraud and possibly losing thousands of dollars.

Audio Transcript

Mr. Schiff: Hello. I’m Neal Schiff, and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. It’s called mass marketing fraud, and the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center, IC3, is working hard so you don’t become a victim of fraud and possibly losing thousands of dollars. Supervisory Special Agent Leslie Hoppey works at IC3.

Ms. Hoppey: "The Internet Crime Complaint Center is in partnership with the National White Collar Crime Center. We are an FBI unit within the Cyber Division of the FBI."

Mr. Schiff: When and why was the Internet Crime Complaint Center created?

Ms. Hoppey: "Well, there was a need for a facility to be established where we could receive complaints from people that were defrauded over the Internet. We actually started back in May of 2000 and we are closely approaching our 10-year anniversary."

Mr. Schiff: What about Internet crime? The Internet became really popular in the mid-90s and has grown so much over the years. What types of crimes have we seen in cyberspace back then and now?

Ms. Hoppey: "Well back then, I believe a lot of the crimes were very simple crimes: non-delivery of items and things of that nature. Now, as we are progressing with time, we see a lot more sophisticated crimes, including intrusion matters, hijacking of accounts, and also, we’ve started to see an increase in mass marketing fraud."

Mr. Schiff: What is mass marketing fraud?

Ms. Hoppey: "Mass marketing fraud refers to any type of fraud scheme that uses one or more mass communication techniques and technology such as the Internet. That way, these fraudsters can reach a large audience of potential victims."

Mr. Schiff: Can you give us an example of mass marketing fraud?

Ms. Hoppey: "Yes. Mass marketing fraud includes several types of fraud, and it’s advanced-fee frauds, which includes lottery frauds. You may get a solicitation that you have won a lottery and that all you have to do is pay the taxes on it. It also includes romance schemes, that you may meet someone in a chat room and they try to get you outside of the chat room and try and get money from you. It’s also included investment opportunities and also bank and financial schemes. It’s a wide variety of fraud included in the term of mass marketing fraud."

Mr. Schiff: How can the public help law enforcement, and what tools does the IC3 have to help fight Internet criminals?

Ms. Hoppey: "I think the public could be very proactive if they report any complaints to us at It’s very important even if there wasn’t a financial loss incurred, because that way we can monitor the complaints that come in, and we can see future trends of scam, and in turn, the IC3 will create public service announcements that we put on our website so people can visit our website and find out about the latest trends out there."

Mr. Schiff: What about some tips to help the public put a red flag up so they don’t become victims of mass marketing fraud, such as lottery fraud, or any other types of Internet crime?

Ms. Hoppey: "Well, especially for mass marketing fraud, I would be very suspicious if I received in an e-mail stating that you’ve won a foreign lottery or if you are asked to transfer funds out of a foreign country. Also, a lot of times it can be a work-at-home scam, where the subject is going to send you counterfeit checks in the mail—and be very careful, because a lot of people lose money that way. They actually put the counterfeit checks in their bank account, and then when they go to draw on it, there’s no money there after they sent it to the subject. So be very careful of those signs."

Mr. Schiff: Any thoughts on the future of cyberspace, not only from the dark side, but law enforcement’s efforts to keep the public safe from crimes on the Internet?

Ms. Hoppey: "Well, I can say that we always see typically the same types of frauds with certain spins on them, and the FBI is very diligent about keeping up with this. We work extremely close with state and local authorities, in addition to other federal law enforcement agencies. We are always sharing information. We are on the forefront of techniques to keep up with technology and the future crimes. I think it is also important to know that we work and establisheded great relationships with international police agencies. That way, even though the subjects may reside overseas in different countries, through these working partnerships, we are still able to arrest these subjects and bring them to justice."

Mr. Schiff: You have to be aware that if it is too good to be true, it probably is. If you think you are a victim of fraud on the Internet; go online and complete the form at That’s our show for this week. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

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