The chapter begins with a reminder that the Internet is like a frontier. I think he is right, but his metaphor is a little off. You don't need to have a frontier to have a criminal element. Every city has a police force, regardless of the age of the city. Crime exists where you find people. Crime exists on the Internet and the author talks about several types. He begins with investment fraud. Let's start just before that. What is fraud?
Fraud is not robbery. Robbery is physically
forcing something from someone else, taking it from their person,
home, or business. Fraud is defined as deception
that includes the following seven elements:
To avoid confusion, the word "fraud" can refer to either the crime itself or to the person carrying out the crime. When reading material on this subject, you will have to determine how the word in being used by its context. To make it easier, in common language the person presenting the fraud is the con artist or the grifter, the person believing the proposition is the mark, and the story told to the mark is the tale. In the clip below from House of Games, a con man teaches his student how to tell a tale to a mark.
Since your text does not appear to have a discussion on the history of fraud, give me a minute.
Further research into the topic a
fraud will lead you to the story of Carlo (Charles) Ponzi, who was made famous
by his invention of several variations on pyramid schemes. His
picture is shown on the right.
In his schemes, he promised a return on investment that was not
possible to deliver, but he delivered it to several customers by
paying them with the investments of subsequent customers. This
made his companies seem legitimate, until the fraud was
discovered, at which time he owed more money to the outstanding
investors than he had assets to pay. He did this several ways in
several states. Each time he was caught, he moved on to a new
location and did it again. Had he operated in the age of the
Internet, Mr. Ponzi would not have had to relocate, but might not
have stayed one step ahead of the law when he did. He was so
successful that a pyramid investment scheme is often called a
The chapter turns to a discussion of two kinds of online fraud. The first is about investments. In the example commonly called the Nigerian Prince or the Nigerian Bank Manager Scam, the prospective mark receive an email with a proposal to share a large amount of money if the mark will be good enough to give his/her bank information to the grifter. A person who believes this tale gives the grifter the keys to a bank account that is quickly looted of all its contents. In case you have never seen such an email, you may enjoy this article on the Snopes website about how the tale may be told to you. As an interesting aside, the Nigerian email scheme seems to work best on people who are in need, who are greedy, or who want to steal from the unsuspecting email sender. If you can convince a mark that he is the con artist, the mark is less likely to notice that he is being conned.
The text goes on to explain that investment fraud is also common on the Internet. Newsletters and tip sheets promote investment in companies that may or may not exist. If the stocks do exist, the author explains that the fraud may be a pump and dump scheme. The fraudster is trying to get people to invest in a stock, which will increase its price, and the fraudster then sells the shares he already owns, making a profit. Whatever happens to the mark's shares is their problem.
Another type of fraud discussed is auction fraud. It is not uncommon to find some imaginary goods for sale on sites that allow auctions. Of course, it does not have to be an auction, it may simply be an offer to sell something. An offer to sell does not prove that the goods exist. Reputable sites try to keep this from happening, but it happens often enough that the text provides advice about detecting auctions (or simply goods for sale) that are fraudulent offers. This is a link to the same information found in your text, advice from eBay about detecting seller fraud.
The text presents three shady tactics that may be found in an online auction offer:
The text begins another major discussion of identity theft. The text does not to into great detail. For your viewing pleasure and your education, watch the following video made by a guy who is a good presenter, has good advice, and was actually a victim, all or which make him worth watch and hearing.
The text makes a special point of telling us to avoid phishing scams, which also try to harvest information from us, from our computers, and from our links to others on the Internet. It isn't just the information the phisher ask for that is damaging, it is the mining of your accounts and your devices that can take place if you click the poisoned link in the email.
The next topic in the chapter is cyber stalking which can be a lot like bullying. The text defines cyber stalking as using the Internet to harass, threaten, or intimidate another person. This may be too specific: it would still be cyber stalking if you were only using an internal email product or another form of communication that did not involve the Internet. The real point is that you are using a computer (or computer-like device) to carry out your unwelcome acts. Don't forget that stalking can take place without a computer, and that is also a crime. The text points out that legal definitions vary, and it may not be cyber stalking if you are just getting email trying to sell you something. If you are in doubt, consult your local police, who may point you to another authority.
The text offers several examples of cyber stalking cases that can be enlightening. One thing I got from them was that no real case is going to match a textbook definition exactly. From that lesson, please take this advice: cases in real life have to be based on real laws, real proof, and real actions. Just because a textbook says "this is what we call X" does not mean that you can arrest or prosecute someone for it.
The text continues with a section about crimes against children. As you might expect, this kind of crime is very specific and it angers many people that it can take place. The video you can reach with this link is a news story from a Texas TV station about a sting operation that took place in February of 2023.
The text returns to a discussion of fraud with a mention of some laws and a longer section of advice about protecting yourself from fraud and identity theft.