$239M USD Lost to Internet Fraud in 2007

The 2007 Internet Crime Report is out, and it reveals a startling $239 million USD was lost in 2007 due to internet fraud. Both the report and its issuer, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), are joint efforts between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

For the year 2007, the IC3 received 219,553 complaints, and chose to refer 90,008 of those to law enforcement agencies for investigation. The report’s statistics are drawn from complaints it chose to refer which, collectively had a “median dollar loss” of $680.00, totaling the report’s banner figure of $239 million. This figure was up 20% over last year’s $198.4 million.

Scammers living in the U.S. generally hail from California, Florida, Texas, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Georgia, says the IC3, while scammers living outside the country most often lived in the UK, Nigeria, Canada, Romania, or Italy.

“Perpetrators,” as they are called, were over three quarters male (75.8%), while victims were just over half male (57.6%).  When scammed, male “complainants” generally lost more money than females: complaints filed by men were generally for amounts two thirds higher: $1.67 for every $1.00 per female.

E-mail continues to be the leading source of internet fraud, with over 60 percent of complaints revolving around auction fraud and non-delivery. Nigerian letter fraud, also known as the infamous 419 scam, totaled just above one percent, ranking lowest and below online threats (1.6%), identity theft (2.9%), and credit/debit card fraud (6.3%).

“The Internet presents a wealth of opportunity for would be criminals to prey on unsuspecting victims,” said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James E. Finch, before noting that the 2007 Internet Crime Report fails to show “how often this type of activity goes unreported.”

Scammers tend to prey on victims’ sense of emotion, and 2007 was no different: the prevailing scams of the year included fake pet ads, phony romance relationships, and bogus adoption ads – the worst of which promise healthy sums of money to whoever adopts the child from his or her supposedly rich, dying parents.

It’s important to keep in mind that fraudsters are becoming smarter than ever — Symantec is noticing an increase in phishing attempts targeted at specific organizations and, in some cases, individuals. Oftentimes such attacks will focus on a company’s managerial staff, or individuals who possess a key role or controlling stake in an organization; the goal now more than ever is financial gain and the acquisition of valuable personal information, particularly from the rich.

As always, internet users are reminded to stay vigilant. Keep anti-virus software running and updated, ignore suspicious, spammy, or otherwise funny looking e-mail messages, and always check the address bar for suspicious URLs before giving away any potentially interesting personal data.

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