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FBI: Internet Fraud Rates Rose 33% Last Year

April 2, 2009

Internet fraud complaints to the FBI by consumers increased more than 33 percent in 2008 over the previous year, according to figures released this week.

Some 275,284 complaints were filed last year with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. In 2007, the IC3 received 206,844 complaints.

The report shows that the nation's capital appears to be home to the largest concentration of online con artists in the country. The District of Columbia ranks #1, just ahead of Nevada and Washington State, in terms of online fraud perpetrators per 100,000 residents, the IC3 found.

The non-delivery of merchandise and/or payment was by far the most reported offense, accounting for nearly one-third of all referred cases, the IC3 reports. Internet auction fraud made up 25.5 percent of referred complaints, while credit/debit card fraud comprised 9 percent.

The total dollar loss from all 72,940 cases of fraud referred to federal, state and local law enforcement was $246.6 million, with a median dollar loss of $931 per complaint -- up from $239.1 million in total reported losses in 2007. The highest median dollar losses came from check fraud ($3,000), confidence fraud ($2,000), and Nigerian (West African 419) "advance fee" scams ($1,650).

Ironically, many of the victims who reported fraud to the IC3 were taken in by scam e-mails made to appear as though they were sent by the FBI, falsely claiming that the agency needed the recipient's personal and banking data to investigate a pending financial transaction.

"Recipients are told that if they do not comply with the FBI's request for information, they will be prosecuted or suffer some other financial penalty," the IC3 report concludes. "In some cases, recipients are led to believe that they will become the subject of a terrorist investigation if they fail to cooperate."

The full report is available here (PDF).

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