Internet Crime Costly to Consumers
Losses doubled in 2009
Online fraud cost consumers twice as much in 2009 as it did in 2008, according to the annual report about fraudulent activity released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
The IC3 received a total of 336,655 complaints in 2009, a 22.3% increase from the year before, and the total loss linked to online fraud was $559.7 million, up from $265 million in 2008. Complaints covered many different categories, including auction fraud, blackmail/extortion, charity fraud, nondelivery of merchandise, credit card fraud, computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited email, employment fraud, investment fraud, gambling offenses, identity theft, rental fraud, and child pornography.
Email scams using the FBI’s name was the offense most often reported to IC3 (16.6%). Nondelivery of merchandise and/or payment (in which a seller did not ship the promised item or a buyer did not pay for an item) was the second most reported offense (11.9%). Advance fee fraud (where the victim is asked to give money up front for some reward that never materializes) made up 9.8% of complaints. Identity theft (8.2%) and overpayment fraud (7.3%) rounded out the top five categories of complaints.
In those cases where the complainant was able to provide information about the perpetrator, 76.6% of the scammers were identified as male and over half resided in California, Florida, New York, the District of Columbia, Texas, or Washington. The majority of perpetrators (65.4%) were from the United States.
Of those complaints that were referred to law enforcement in which a dollar loss was reported, the highest median losses were among investment fraud ($3,200), overpayment fraud ($2,500), and advance fee fraud ($1,500). Men reported greater losses than women.
“The figures contained in this report indicate that criminals are continuing to take full advantage of the anonymity afforded them by the Internet,” said Donald Brackman, director of the National White Collar Crime Center, which partners with the FBI to operate the IC3. “They are also developing increasingly sophisticated means of defrauding unsuspecting consumers. Internet crime is evolving in ways we couldn’t have imagined just five years ago.”
You can read the 24-page report at the IC3 Web site.
Published March 23, 2010