Pay up: The most common type of online crime

Annual FBI report reveals the top scams

Identity theft and fraud were among the most common types of online crime reported in 2010. But the top crimes involved the nondelivery of payments or merchandise in online transactions, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2010 Internet Crime Report.

Among the various classifications of fraud, the most common involved people impersonating FBI agents.

The report, a joint effort of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, received 303,809 complaints, or about 25,000 per month, last year. In addition to offering statistics, the Internet Crime Complaint Center is designed help law enforcement agencies share information about Internet crime.


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The report highlights scam alerts from the previous year, including those involving bogus Haitian and Chilean relief efforts; counterfeit check schemes; and a number of scams in which fraudsters gained access to victims' accounts.

In 2010, nondelivery of payments or merchandise totaling hundreds of millions of dollars accounted for 14.4 percent of the complaints, followed by scams involving people posing as FBI agents, at 13.2 percent.

Identity theft was the third most common crime (9.8 percent), followed by computer crimes (9.1 percent), miscellaneous fraud (8.6 percent), advance fee fraud (7.6 percent), spam (6.9 percent), auction fraud (5.9 percent), credit card fraud (5.3 percent) and overpayment fraud (5.3 percent).

Total complaints were down from the 336,655 complaints received in 2009, although 2010 had the second highest total in the 10 years of the report.

The report describes the most common complainants as being men ages 40 to 59 living in California, Florida, Texas or New York. Because those are populous states, the report also lists states with the most complaints per capita. The top five are Alaska, Colorado, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and Nevada.

In a common online fraud scam, perpetrators pose as relief organizations offering assistance after a natural disaster, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. The report offers tips on how people can avoid falling victim to such appeals.

Other types of scams involve fraudulent telephone calls, claims of being stranded, and a fairly elaborate scheme in which people applying to be secret shoppers for a supposedly legitimate company are duped out of their money via counterfeit checks.

The report also includes statistics on Internet crime around the world. It concludes that such activities cut across all demographic areas and warns that “cyber criminals have become more creative in devising ways to separate Internet users from their money.”

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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