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Cyber-crime is alive and kicking in the USA, and playfully swimming through its riches like Scrooge McDuck in a money vault, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center annual report reveals today.

In 2006 US consumers filed 207,492 complaints about internet crime and reported record losses of $198.4m. Online auction fraud, such as receiving a different item than expected, topped the list, accounting for 44.9 per cent of complaints. Undelivered merchandise and payments were next in line, accounting for 19 per cent.

Greedy fools are still falling for the 419 scam (which the FBI calls "Nigerian Letter Fraud"). On average, victims last year lost $5,100 a pop to the countless princes of Nigeria, by sensibly moving their Majesties' assets to the US.

Another notable email scam, with 115 complaints received last year, goes straight for the jugular: the fraudster demands money in return for not murdering the recipient through a hired assassin.

Three-quarters of the offenders caught were male, half residing in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Most were located in the US although significant numbers were located in the UK, Nigeria, Canada, Romania and Italy.

Some 61.2 per cent of complaints were filed by men, half of them aged between 30 and 50. Men lost an average of $1.69 for every $1 reported by women. Nearly 74 per cent of complainants were contacted through email and 36 per cent through websites.

Here are some suggestions from the FBI for avoiding internet crime - to which we add the following: don't be a complete twit. ®

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