- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2011

The joint FBI/National White Collar Crime Center’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received more than 300,000 complaints during 2010 — averaging just over 25,000 a month — involving Internet crimes, mostly including the non-delivery of payment or merchandise, scams impersonating the FBI and identity theft.

According to the IC3’s just-released 2010 Internet Crime Report, nearly 170,000 of the complaints that met specific investigative criteria — such as certain financial thresholds — were referred to local, state or federal law enforcement agencies.

But, the report said, even those complaints not referred to law enforcement, including those where no financial losses had occurred, were valuable pieces of information analyzed and used for intelligence reports and to help identify emerging fraud trends.

According to the report:

• Most victims filing complaints were from the U.S., male, between 40 and 59 years old, and residents of California, Florida, Texas or New York. Most international complainants were from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia or India.

• In cases where information on the perpetrator was available, nearly 75 percent were men and more than half resided in California, Florida, New York, Texas, the District of Columbia or Washington state. The highest numbers of perpetrators outside this country were from the United Kingdom Nigeria and Canada.

• After non-delivery of payment or merchandise, scams impersonating the FBI,and identity theft, rounding out the top 10 crime types were computer crimes, miscellaneous fraud, advance fee fraud, spam, auction fraud, credit card fraud and overpayment fraud.

The report also contained information on some of the alerts sent out by the IC3 during 2010 in response to new scams or to an increase in established scams. They included telephone calls claiming victims were delinquent on payday loans, online apartment and house rental and real estate scams used to swindle consumers out of thousands of dollars, denial-of-service attacks on cell phones and landlines used as a ruse to access victims’ bank accounts, and fake e-mails seeking donations to disaster relief efforts after last year’s earthquake in Haiti.

Over the past few years, the IC3 said it has enhanced the way it processes, analyzes and refers victim complaints to law enforcement. Technology has automated the search process, the agency said, so IC3 analysts as well as local, state and federal analysts and investigators can look for similar complaints to build cases.

Technology also allows law enforcement users who may be working on the same or similar cases to communicate and share information, it said.

“Because there are so many variations of Internet scams out there, we can’t possibly warn against every single one,” the agency said. “But we do recommend this: practice good security — make sure your computer is outfitted with the latest security software, protect your personal identification information and be highly suspicious if someone offers you an online deal that’s too good to be true.”

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