Online crime complaints increased substantially once again last year, with the number of fraud complaints jumping 22.3 percent and total losses linked to online fraud reaching almost $560 million.
That’s according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, which released the 2009 Internet Crime Report.
The center received a total of 336,655 complaints. The total loss linked to online fraud of $559.7 million was up from $265 million in 2008.
Advanced fee scams that fraudulently used the FBI’s name ranked number one. Non-delivery of merchandise and/or payment was the second most reported offense.
The Top 10 Most Common Internet Fraud Complaints:
- FBI Scams 16.6%
- Non-Delivery Merchandise/Payment 11.9%
- Advanced Fee Fraud 9.8%
- Identity Theft 8.2%
- Overpayment Fraud 7.3%
- Miscellaneous Frauds 6.3%
- Spam 6.2%
- Credit Card Fraud 6.0%
- Auction Fraud 5.7%
- Computer Damage 4.5%
In addition to those referencing the FBI, popular Internet scams in 2009 involved hitmen, economic stimulus funds, astrological readings, work-from-home job sites and fake pop-up ads for antiviral software.
In one of the hitman scams, victims receive an email from a member of an organization such as the “Ishmael Ghost Islamic Group” who clams he was hired to assassinate the victim but that for $800 the killing can be prevented.
Another popular one has involved supposed government economic stimulus funds. Callers instruct victims to sign up on a Web site such as nevergiveitback.com or myfedmoney.com. After they complete an online application and pay a $28 fee, victims are assured they will receive large sums of government monies, but they never do.
Donald Brackman, director of the White Collar Crime Complaint Center, said the report’s findings underscore the threat posed by cyber criminals.
“The figures contained in this report indicate that criminals are continuing to take full advantage of the anonymity afforded them by the Internet. 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,” Brackman said.
While most perpetrators of Internet fraud remain anonymous, in the minority of cases where victims were able to make out some identification, over 76% of the perpetrators were male. Regarding victims, the average complainant was also male, between 40 and 49.
Of those complaints reporting monetary loss, the mean dollar loss was $5,580 and the median was $575. Over 20 percent (21.7%) of complaints referred to law enforcement involved losses of less than $100, and 36.7% reported a loss between $100 and $1,000. Just over 28 percent (28.3%) of the complaints reported losses between $1,000 and $5,000.
The highest dollar loss per referred incident was reported by overpayment fraud (median loss of $2,500) complainants. Investment fraud (median loss of $1,857) and advance fee fraud (median loss of $1,500) complainants were other high dollar loss categories.
Top States in Internet Fraud Complaints
(ranked by % of overall complaints)
- California 13.9%
- Florida 7.5%
- Texas 7.3%
- New York 5.2%
- New Jersey 5.0%
- Illinois 3.6%
- Pennsylvania 3.4%
- Ohio 3.0%
- Virginia 2.9%
- Washington 2.8%
Complainants per 100,000 People
(rank state per 100,000 people)
- Alaska 485.91
- New Jersey 166.74
- Colorado 143.21
- Nevada 135.75
- District of Columbia 131.90
- Oregon 124.18
- Maryland 121.67
- Arizona 121.01
- Washington 120.56
- Florida 116.25
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