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The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) says complaints of online crime hit a record high in 2008, driven mostly by non-delivery of goods and service and those pesky 419 (Nigerian) e-mail scams.

Accordign to a new report (PDF from ic3.gov), the center received a a total of 275,284 complaints, a 33.1% increase over the previous year. The total dollar loss linked to online fraud was $265 million, about $25 million more than in 2007. The average individual loss amounted to $931.  Other significant findings include:

  • Non-delivered merchandise and/or payment was, by far, the most reported  offense, comprising 32.9% of referred complaints. Internet auction fraud accounted for 25.5% of referred complaints. Credit/debit card fraud made up 9.0% of referred complaints. Confidence fraud, computer fraud, check fraud, and Nigerian letter fraud round out the top seven categories of complaints referred to law enforcement during the year.
  • Of those complaints reporting a dollar loss, the highest median losses were found among check fraud ($3,000), confidence fraud ($2,000), Nigerian (West African, 419, Advance Fee) letter fraud ($1,650). 
  • Among perpetrators, 77.4% were male and half resided in one of the following states: California, New York, Florida, Texas, District of Columbia, and Washington. The majority of reported perpetrators (66.1%) were from the United States; however, a significant number of perpetrators where also located in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, China, and South Africa.
  • Among complainants, 55.4% 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, Florida, Texas, and New York. While most were from the United States (92.4%), IC3 received a  number of complaints from Canada, United Kingdom,  Australia, India, and France.
  • 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.
  • E-mail (74.0%) and webpages (28.9%) were the two primary mechanisms by which the fraudulent contact took place.

Here’s one takeaway from FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Shawn Henry:

“This report illustrates that sophisticated computer fraud schemes continue to flourish as financial data migrates to the Internet. It also underscores the need for continued vigilance on the part of law enforcement, businesses, and the home computer user to be aware of these schemes and employ sound security procedures.”

Brian Krebs has more on this story [washingtonpost.com] 

* Image source: ToastyKen’s Flickr feed. (Creative Commons 2.0)

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Categories: Web Security