2009 a boom year for internet scams, cyber police say

2009 internet crime statistics2009 was a banner year for Internet scammers, according to a report released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. Complaints more than doubled to 146,663 and the value of losses exceeded half a billion dollars. I'm certain that these numbers are only a small portion of the real figures, limited by the public's lack of awareness of who to contact when they are scammed online.

The study reveals some interesting trends in online theft. The most common type of scams?

  1. Offers/requests/demand supposed from the FBI:16.6%
  2. Non-delivery of merchandise/payments: 11.9%
  3. Advance fee fraud: 9.8%
  4. Identity theft: 8.2%
  5. Overpayment fraud: 7.3%

Keep in mind that this is a report from an affiliate of the FBI, so the FBI fraud report numbers are no doubt skewed by this.

The median loss was $575, while 13.4% of the victims lost more than $5,000 each. The most expensive scams? Overpayment fraud, investment scams, and advance fee fraud.

The perps and the victims tended to live in the same state; the top five states from which the perps carried out their scams were California, Florida, New York, the District of Columbia and Texas, and the top victims lived pretty much in the same states. The state with the most victims per 100,000 people, however, was Alaska.

The five most common locations for scammers operating outside the U.S. were England, Nigeria, Canada, Malaysia, and Ghana.

Men lost a bit more than women, on average ($650 to $500), and the age group that lost the most was not the retirees, as you might expect, but those in middle-age: 40-49 ($700).

The IC3's 2009 scams list included:
  • The hitman scheme: The con sends an email claiming to have been hired to "whack" the victim by a terrorist organization, but offers to let him off the hook for a price.
  • Astrological reading scheme: often starting with a pop-up ad offering a free reading, the victim is convinced to buy a full reading, for an upfront payment.
  • Economic Stimulus scam: The victim receives a recorded-message phone call from someone who sounds like the President inviting them to apply for funds by inputting personal details on and sending an advance payment to a scam Web site.
  • Job Site scams: The old work-at-home scams dangling private shopper jobs and the like, for which the vic needs to pay for supplies/training.
The IC3 routes internet-crime complaints to the appropriate jurisdiction. If you're a victim of cybercrime, this is a good place to turn to for help.
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