Never leave home without your IT security awareness. (Media credit/NOAA)

Never leave home without your IT security awareness. (Media credit/NOAA)

On May 10, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released its annual 2011 Internet Crime Report. The 2011 Internet Crime Report is a summary overview of online criminal activity. In 2011 the IC3 received 314,246 complaints, an increase of 3.4 percent from 2010, but less than 2009. The estimated dollar loss in 2011 was $485.3 million.

The IC3 received and processed, on average, more than 26,000 complaints per month in 2011. Many online schemes use deception schemes to de-fraud victims of identities and money. The report summarizes complaint types, along with statistical breakdowns by demographics and state.

Some common themes of internet crime include:

  • Auto-Auction Fraud – 4,066 complaints at a loss of $8.3 Million. In fraudulent vehicle sales, criminals attempt to sell vehicles they do not own. Criminals advertise vehicles for sale at prices below book value, and claim they are moving for due to work or military deployment. They get the money because they are rushed, or take partial payment. The criminal does not deliver the vehicle. Demographically, males age 40-49 complained most, followed by males 20-29. Let’s say, “These prices are a steal!”
  • Romance Scams – 5,663 complaints at a loss of $50.4 Million. Scammers target individuals looking for online for companionship or romance. Victims believe they are “dating” a good person. Overwhelmingly, the most frequent complainants were women ages 50-59, with women 40-49 a close second. On average, each victim reported a loss of $8,900. Dearie, when it seems too good to be true, it’s probably not.
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  • Work-from-Home Scams – 17,352 complaints at a loss of $20.1 Million.Cyber criminals move stolen funds using work-from-home scams. Organized crime and cyber criminals recruit victims through newspaper ads, online employment services, unsolicited emails or “spam,” and social networking sites advertising work-from-home “opportunities.” Sadly, for their participation, some “victims” are legally liable for participating in criminal activity. Victims are the “mule” for criminals who use the victim’s accounts to steal or launder money. Scammers may also damage the victim’s own identity or accounts. While all ages, except the elderly fall for this, woman are over 50% more likely than men to become victims. Everyone with an email account will probably get such an offer. PRESS DELETE, &/or report spam. Ah [sigh], don’t we wish we could get rich quick?
  • Loan Intimidation Scams – 9,968 complaints at a loss of $8.2 Million. A relentless continual caller claims the victim is delinquent on a loan and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences. The callers claim to be representatives of the legitimate-sounding law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, or they claim to be collecting debts for various companies. Callers have accurate identifying information about the victims, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, employer information, bank account numbers, and names and telephone numbers of relatives and friends. Females age 30-39 appear most at risk; perhaps struggling single mothers who are not surprised when loansharks come calling. (One avoidance tip is to never fill out an online application for a loan or credit card.) Hmmm, now I’m starting to sweat…
  • FBI Impersonation Email Scams – 14,350 complaints at a loss of $3.5 Million. Government agencies do not send unsolicited emails, but scammers do. Men ages 50-59, then over 60, often fell prey. Impersonating a federal agent, to defraud consumers, sure takes a lot of, um, nerve!

The typical American reader would not expect Alaska and the District of Columbia to have much in common; let us count the ways they differ. However, Alaska and DC have the highest rate of reporting internet crime per population; and are in the Top-7 for highest average dollar loss.

More advice: When you travel overseas – let’s generalize this advice for any WiFi or guest internet connection (domestic or foreign) – be careful what you view and click, and protect your computer/data.

IC3 receives, develops, and refers criminal complaints of cybercrime. IC3 provides victims with a convenient, central reporting mechanism, and coordinates the response with local, state, federal, and international levels. How low can these criminals go? To read the IC3 report, click here.

About The Author

Sandra Giger is a Blast correspondent

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