Michael Wong Academy

How to report a scam

By Michael Wong

Have you been scammed? Can you spot a scam? Want to file a consumer complaint against a business or company? Here are links to national and local agencies to report scams and file consumer complaints.

Reporting a scam or filing consumer complaints probably won't get you your money back. But it could help stop others getting scammed. Plus you'll feel a bit better. :-)

Quick links

10 warning signs that may point to a scam or abandoned site

Here are 10 warning signs to look out for, if you're not sure whether a website or opportunity is a scam, legit, or just adandoned.

  1. Is the copyright date up to date?: I always check the copyright date at the bottom of webpages to see if it's up to date. The year typically gives an indication of when the website was last updated.

    If the copyright date is 2004, it's a sure sign the website has been abandoned long ago and you should probably avoid doing business there.

  2. Is the About Us page reassuring?: a good About Us page should tell you more about the company and the people behind it. It should reassure you that the company is legitimate and currently active.

    Here are the things I look for in a good About Us page:

    • Bios of the founder/s and/or management.
    • Photographs of the founder/s or staff.
    • Recent job listings.
    • News and press releases.
    • Financial information if the company is publicly traded.

    Smaller companies, like mine for example, typically have a personal story of why the founder created the website in the About Us page.

    An About Us page that has a couple of paragraphs of information of a general nature should be a warning sign.

  3. Does the company provide real contact details?: Here are contact details that all good businesses should offer:
    • Real company address: Copy and paste the address into Google Maps to see if it's a real address.

      If it is, click on Street View option (if available) in Google Maps to see if the address is a commercial property, a residential address, or maybe a post office box.

    • Telephone number: If a website sells a product or service, they should provide a sales and customer support telephone number.

      Call the number to see if someone picks up the phone or just goes to a voicemail. If there's no phone number, be wary.

      If a Contact Us page only has an online contact form, with no address or phone number, my Scamdar (scam radar) would be beeping like crazy. Hahaha! :-)

      Having said that, you wouldn't expect websites offering free information like mine to provide a customer support phone number. I simply don't have the resources to respond to telephone calls all day.

  4. Does the website's blog contain recent blog posts?: if a website has a blog, find out when the latest posts were published. If the last blog post was five years ago, be wary.
  5. Does the website contain recent press releases or news articles?: if a website has a News section, find out when the latest news or press releases were published.

    If there hasn't been any news or press releases for years, that's another warning sign the website might be abandoned.

  6. Is their Facebook page up to date and active?: if a website has a Facebook page, visit the page to see how often they update the page.

    See how quickly they respond to customers' queries. And see if there are any customer comments, good or bad.

  7. Does the website's Twitter page contain recent Tweets?: if a website is on Twitter, visit their Twitter page to see how often they tweet. You may also come across customer comments.

    Some people use their Twitter account to churn out ads and promotions for affiliate products. Typically, you'll see new tweets on a regular basis, such as every hour, and they always contain links.

    These accounts typically don't contain tweets to and from other Twitter users. Be wary if you see this type of Twitter activity.

  8. Is the domain hidden behind a domain privacy service?: Use a Whois lookup service to see who owns the domain.

    The Whois database is a searchable database of all domains registered along with the contact details of the person/company who registered the domain.

    Be suspicious if the domain's contact details in the Whois database doesn't match the details on the company's website.

    Do the contact details mention "Domain Privacy Service" or something to that effect?

    If it does, it means the domain owner is hiding their true identity. This technique is often used in scams. So be really suspicious if a domain owner is hiding their true identity.

  9. Is the company BBB accredited?: companies that bother to get accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are probably serious about customer service.

    Companies typically proudly show off their accreditation with the BBB badge on their website and link to their page on the BBB website.

    However, that's not always the case. So click on the BBB badge. If there's no link, it probably means:

    • the company is not genuinely BBB accredited; or
    • the company's BBB rating is so bad they removed the link. Either way, it's a bad sign.
  10. Are there complaints from customers on other websites?: often this will give you the strongest indication as to whether to trust a company.

    I'd suggest taking product/company reviews with a big pinch of salt. Often these reviews are biased towards the product/company because the reviewer receives compensation in the form of affiliate commissions for sending customers.

    I'm the first to admit I've been guilty of this practice in the past. I've been to Affiliates Anonymous and am now a reformed affiliate. Hahaha! :-)

    How to search for customer/user comments online

    I recommend searching for comments by customers/users. You'd typically find these in forums and blog comments. In my experience these comments are typically unedited and paint a truer picture than other sources.

    A word of warning though: don't accept all comments as the same. I allocate far more weight to comments by people who've posted many comments and have been a member of the forum for some time.

    Look for the poster's username and you should see the number of posts by the member and their join date.

    I typically ignore comments by people who've only made a single post. I feel the chances are these posts are made by people who are either working for the company or the competition.

    To find forum and blog comments, try the following searches in Google. Replace domain.com with the website you're interested in.

    • anyone tried domain.com
    • experience domain.com
    • domain.com scam
    • work domain.com
    • I work domain.com

    Refine Google searches to just blogs/forums

    I recommend using Google to refine your search results to just blogs or forums.

    Here's how:

    • Enter your search as normal.
    • To refine your search results to just blogs, click the "More" link on the left side of the page. Then click the "Blogs" link.
    • To refine your search results to just forums, click the "More" link on the left side of the page. Then click the "Discussions" link.

How to report a scam in the United States

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with these agencies in the United States.

  1. Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NWC3), funded in part by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

    The Internet Crime Complaint Center reviews and evaluates each complaint and refers it to one or more of the following federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agencies.

  2. Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant: file consumer complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    The FTC collects complaints which will help them detect patterns of wrong-doing, and lead to investigations and prosecutions.

    The FTC enters all complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide.

    Please note that the FTC doesn't resolve individual consumer complaints.

  3. Econsumer.gov: report complaints with a foreign company.

    Econsumer.gov is an initiative of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN).

    ICPEN is a network of governmental organizations involved in the enforcement of fair trade practice laws and other consumer protection activities.

  4. State Attorney General's office: file consumer complaints with your local state Attorney General's office or Department of Consumer Affairs.

    Scroll down for a list of links to local State Attorney General websites for all 50 U.S. states.

  5. United States Postal Inspection Service: file consumer complaints with the United States Postal Inspection Service if you're a victim of mail fraud.

    The Postal Inspection Service can't resolve routine business disputes between companies and their customers.

    It can however act against a company or individual if there is a pattern of activity suggesting a potential scheme to defraud.

50 U.S. State Attorney General office links

Here are links to State Attorney General and Department of Consumer Affairs consumer complaint webpages for all 50 U.S. states.

How to report a scam in Canada

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with these agencies in Canada.

File consumer complaints with your local government agency.

How to report a scam in the UK

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with these agencies in the UK.

How to report a scam in Australia

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with these agencies in Australia.

File a complaint with the consumer protection agency in your state.

How to report a scam in India

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with this agency in India.

How to report a scam in Ireland

Report fraud in Ireland with Ireland's National Police Service.

How to report a scam in Malaysia

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with these agencies in Malaysia.

How to report a scam in New Zealand

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with these agencies in New Zealand.

How to report a scam in Singapore

Report a scam or file consumer complaints with this agency in Singapore.

How to report a scam forum

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