FBI Identifies Most Common and Costly Internet Scams

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center have issued a report on the complaints filed during calendar year 2001, the first full year of operations for the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC). The report identifies the most common and costly types of Internet fraud and includes a list of best practices to prevent these types of fraud.

Altogether, the IFCC received nearly 50,000 complaints in 2001. Most (75%) of the alleged fraud perpetrators were individuals, and the vast majority (90%) of complainants were individuals (rather than businesses). But, the report explains, these results are not necessarily a fair sample of all Internet frauds because the IFCC is not yet fully equipped to handle business complaints. The expectation is that businesses will make up a larger proportion of Internet fraud complainants in the future.

Not all complaints received by IFCC involved monetary losses. Of those that did, the percentages and median costs for the most common types of Internet fraud were as follows:

  1. Auction fraud, 42.8%, $395
  2. Non-delivery of merchandise and payment, 20.3%, $325
  3. Nigerian letter fraud, 15.5%, $5,575
  4. Credit-debit card fraud, 9.4%, $450
  5. Confidence fraud, 3.1%, $585
  6. Investment fraud, 1.7%, $1,000
  7. Business fraud, 1.4%, $160
  8. Identity fraud, 1.3%, $3,000
  9. Check fraud, 0.7%, $910
  10. Communications fraud, 0.6%, $200

Complaints are forwarded to the appropriate government agencies for handling, even if the complaints fall outside the IFCC's area of focus. Allegations of computer intrusions go to the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), complaints about e-mail spam and identity theft go to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the IFCC works with the U.S. Secret Service on complaints involving credit card fraud or Nigerian letter scams. In addition, following the events of September 11, 2001, the IFCC web site was designated by the U.S. Attorney General as the single on-line portal for the public to report terrorist information.

Download the report. File a complaint. Learn more about the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).

-Rosemary Schlank

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