FBI: Internet fraud losses more than doubled in 2009

FBI report says e-mail scams, identitiy theft, spam causing most pain

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual wide-ranging look at Internet crime found that online crime is indeed paying off - for the criminals as it cost users $559.7 million, up from $265 million in 2008. Further, the agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) Web site received a total of 336,655 complaints about online problems, a 22.3% increase over 2008. 

FBI details most difficult Internet scams

Complaints range from fraud and non-fraud categories, including auction fraud, non-delivery of merchandise, credit card fraud, computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited email, and child pornography. The top five categories of complaints include non-delivered merchandise and/or payment; identity theft; credit card fraud, auction fraud, and computer fraud. 

Some interesting facts from the survey published today

  • Annual crime complaints reported to IC3 have increased 667.8% when comparing data from the 2001 annual report with 2009. 
  • The District of Columbia, Nevada, Washington, Montana, Utah, and Florida have the highest per capita rate of perpetrators in the United States. Perpetrators also have been identified as residing in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, Malaysia, and Ghana. 
  • E-mail scams that used the FBI's name (schemes in which the scammer pretended to be affiliated with the FBI in an effort to gain information from the target) represented 16.6% of all complaints. 
  • Non-delivered merchandise and/or payment (in which either a seller did not ship the promised item or a buyer did not pay for an item) accounted for 11.9% of complaints.  
  • Advance fee fraud (a scam wherein the target is asked to give money upfront- often times- for some reward that never materializes) made up 9.8% of complaints.  
  • The mean dollar loss was $5,580 and the median was $575. The significant difference between the mean and median losses is reflected by a small number of cases in which hundreds of thousands of dollars were reported to have been lost by the complainant. 
  • Over 20% of complaints involved losses of less than $100, and 36.7% reported a loss between $100 and $1,000. Just over 28% of the complaints referred to law enforcement reported losses between $1,000 and $5,000 (for a grand total of 86.7% of complaints referred to law enforcement showing a loss of $5,000 or less), and 13.4% indicated a loss greater than $5,000.

The report comes on the heels the Federal Trade Commission's yearly look at consumer gripes that found identity theft continues to be the number one consumer gripe about the Internet.  

The FTC said credit card fraud continues to increase.  According to the FTC, a total of 721,418 fraud complaints were filed in 2009 with a resulting in a loss of $1.7 billion.  Of that, 40% of consumers reported credit card as the payment method, an increase of 7% over 2008.  Another 48% said email was involved.

In total, the FTC received over 1.3 million complaints during calendar year 2009: 54% fraud complaints; 21% identity theft complaints; and 25% other types of complaints. 

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8

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