The Internet Crime Complaint Center filed its annual report last month, but didn't get the attention it deserved. A look inside offers some revealing statistics on the darker side of the Web.
This is the sixth annual report by the U.S.-based center, which is run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. The complaint center, dubbed IC3, compiles its figures by drawing on the flood of complaints pouring into U.S. law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The list of crimes runs the gamut, led by various financial scams (auction fraud, failure to deliver goods or money, credit card fraud), followed by other acts that have become a daily feature of online life (computer intrusions, spam, child pornography).
Although the number of complaints last year–207,492–fell by 10 percent, the overall losses hit a record $198 million. By far the most reported crime: Internet auction fraud, garnering 45 percent of all complaints. Also big was nondelivery of merchandise or payment, which notched second at 19 percent. The biggest money losers: those omnipresent Nigerian scam letters, which fleeced victims on average of $5,100–followed by check fraud at $3,744 and investment fraud at $2,694.
Of these varied crimes, over 75 percent of the perpetrators were male, mostly from the nation's most populous states–no surprises there. More interesting are those areas with the highest per capita rate of perps: the District of Columbia, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Maine, and Florida. (OK, Nevada and Florida, sure. But Maine?) For a more regional look, check out the center's handy state-by-state index.
The feds caution that these figures don't represent a scientific sample of just how much Net crime is out there. They note, for example, that the high number of auction fraud complaints is due, in part, to eBay and other big E-commerce outfits offering customers direct links to the IC3 website. And it's tough to measure what may be the Web's biggest scourge, child porn, simply by complaints. Still, the survey is a useful snapshot, even if it tells us what we already know: that the Internet, like the rest of life, is full of bad guys. Caveat emptor.
P.S. For more on Internet's dark side, check out some of the posts by our pals at Neatorama, including a short history of hacking and some clever scambaiters conning Nigerian scammers.