The District of Columbia, Nevada, Washington, Montana, Utah, and Florida have the highest per capita rate of Internet crime perpetrators in the United States, according to the 2009 annual report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
The Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, also reported that online crime complaints increased substantially last year: a total of 336,655 complaints were filed—a 22.3% increase from 2008. And financial losses linked to online fraud skyrocketed, doubling from $265 million in 2008 to $559.7 million last year.
Complaints received by the Center cover many different fraud and non-fraud categories, including auction fraud, non-delivery of merchandise, credit card fraud, computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited email, and child pornography, according to the report. Although the type of fraud varied, advanced fee scams that used the FBI's name ranked number one (16.6%) in 2009. Non-delivery of merchandise and/or payment was the second most reported offense (11.9%).
In addition to FBI scams, popular scam trends for 2009 included hitman scams, astrological reading frauds, economic scams, job site scams, and fake pop-up ads for antivirus software. Hitman scams are a type of email extortion scheme in which the victim receives an email from a member of an organization such as the “Ishmael Ghost Islamic Group.” The emailer claims to have been sent to assassinate the victim and the victim’s family members. The astrological scam is an old one that has resurfaced. In this scam, a victim receives spam or pop-up messages offering free astrological readings. The victim must provide his/her birth date and birth location to receive a free reading. After receiving the reading, the victim is enticed to purchase a full reading with the promise that something favorable is about to happen. The victim neither gets the full reading nor something favorable.
The report noted that obtaining the gender and residence of perpetrators is difficult because of the Internet’s “mask of anonymity.” The Center cautioned that perpetrator demographics represents information provided to the victim by the perpetrator so actual perpetrator statistics may vary greatly. In those complaints in which perpetrator information was provided, 76.6% were male and half resided in one of the following states: California, Florida, New York, the District of Columbia, Texas, and Washington. The majority of reported perpetrators (65.4%) were from the United States. A number of perpetrators were also in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, Malaysia, and Ghana.
The report’s per capita statistics on perpetrators show the District of Columbia having 116 per 100,000 population; Nevada, 106.73; Washington, 81.33; Montana, 68.2; Utah, 60.22, and Florida, 57.28.
“Internet crime is evolving in ways we couldn't have imagined just five years ago,” said Donald Brackman, director of the National White Collar Crime Center in a statement. “The figures contained in this report indicate that criminals are continuing to take full advantage of the anonymity afforded them by the Internet. They are also developing increasingly sophisticated means of defrauding unsuspecting consumers.”
The full report can be found at: http://www.ic3.gov/media/annualreport/2009_IC3Report.pdf