32 Indicted Over Internet Fraud Scheme

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Thirty-two people were recently indicted by a federal grand jury for their involvement in a fraud scheme that stole more than $2.7 million from more than 2,000 victims across the United States.

"The alleged scheme was based on the Internet and operated since 2005, according to authorities," writes The Detroit News' Robert Snell. "Investigators said victims, drawn in by newspaper ads or Internet sites for 67 fictitious companies promising loans to people with poor credit, paid upfront fees for loans. Some of the fake companies had names similar to real financial institutions. One Web page highlighted by prosecutors included a picture of a glass, high-rise office building and glowing customer testimonials."

"Representatives of these make-believe virtual companies would contact the loan applicants, tell them that they were approved for loans, and then direct them to make an initial security deposit payment through Western Union to money couriers in order to receive the loans," writes The Detroit Free Press' Tresa Baldas. "Despite making the security deposit, the victims never received the loans, or refunds of their money, the indictment said."

"When victims realized they had been scammed, the crime ring operating the websites abandoned the old sites for new fictional companies, with online listings that included fake addresses," writes Network World's Ellen Messmer.

"All of the defendants -- 23 from Canada and nine from the United States -- are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money," writes The Buffalo News' Phil Fairbanks. "Another U.S. defendant was charged as part of a complaint, not the indictment."

"Customers of all types should be reminded that when dealing with anyone online -- whether to purchase goods, or to provide personal or financial information about yourself -- it is especially important to do your homework," U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said in a statement. "Do not rely solely on online advertisements or emails, ask questions, and do not be pressured. The public can also always contact the Better Business Bureau, state and federal law enforcement agencies, or the website www.stopfraud.gov for more valuable information."