When it comes to crime, the Internet is like a Swiss Army knife—a multi-purpose tool that’s easy to use and highly versatile.
That’s made clear, says the FBI, by the 2006 annual report just issued by its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which shows how criminals have used the ‘Net to launch nine different varieties of fraud.
Among the highlights from the report:
During 2006, consumers filed 207,492 complaints. Complainants said they lost $198.4 million, the highest total ever.
Nearly 45 percent of the complaints involved online auction fraud—such as getting a different product than expected—making it the largest category; more than 19 percent concerned undelivered merchandise or payments.
Check fraud made up 4.9% of complaints. Credit/debit card fraud, computer fraud, confidence fraud, and financial institutions fraud round out the top seven categories of complaints referred to law enforcement during the year.
Of those individuals who reported a dollar loss, the highest median losses were found among Nigerian letter fraud ($5,100), check fraud ($3,744), and other investment fraud ($2,695) complainants.
Among perpetrators, 75.2% were male and half resided in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. The majority of reported perpetrators were from the United States. However, a significant number of perpetrators where also located in United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, Romania, and Italy.
Among complainants, 61.2% were male, nearly half were between the ages of 30 and 50 and one-third resided in one of the four most populated states: California, Texas, Florida, and New York. While most were from the United States, IC3 received a number of complaints from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, India, and Germany.
Males lost more money than females (ratio of $1.69 dollars lost per male to every $1.00 dollar lost per female). This may be a function of both online purchasing differences by gender and the type of fraudulent schemes by which the individuals were victimized, the report notes.
Another pervasive scheme last year involved an e-mail threat of murder.
The FBI notes that 2006 statistics don’t represent the universe of Internet crime, since they are based on submitted reports, but they do provide important insights for investigators and a benchmark from year to year.
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