A report released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, indicates that the recession appears to be having one positive effect that is quite unwelcome. That is, an increase in Internet crime.
The following is a brief summary of the report's key findings:
- In 2008, the IC3 website received a total of 275,284 submitted complaints, a 33% increase from 2007.
- More than a quarter of those submissions (72,940) were referred to law enforcement agencies around the country for further consideration.
- Total losses from the referred cases added up to $264.6 million, compared to $239.1 million in 2007.
- The "vast majority" of the cases involved fraud and financial losses to the complaining party, with an average loss of $931 per complaint.
So, what were the main types of complaints?
1. Problems with purchases and delivery of merchandise made up about a third (32.9%);
2. Internet auction fraud added up to another quarter (25.5%);
3. Credit/debit card fraud were 9.0% of the complaints; and
4. Finally, although confidence fraud, computer fraud, check fraud, and, of course, the infamous Nigerian letter fraud(s), did not add up to the most complaints, the victims of those types of fraud lost substantially more on average than any other frauds, e.g. check fraud ($3,000), confidence fraud ($2,000), Nigerian (west African, 419, Advance Fee) letter fraud ($1,650).
Although an increase in fraudulent crimes during hard times is not unusual, the widespread use of the Internet, the vast audience therein, and the relatively cheap methods with which such fraud(s) can be accomplished, probably all exacerbate the problem.
Below is a link to the full text of the report, as well as some links to more resources, including some recent tips on how to avoid falling prey to common online scams. As noted in the IC3 report, the best tools to avoid falling prey might just be individual "education and awareness".