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Cybercrime losses almost double

FBI figures show huge rise in online miscreantage

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US net crime loss complaints almost doubled in value from $265m in 2008 to reach $560m last year, according to official figures.

An annual report of the FBI-backed Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), published on Friday, reports that the unit handled 336,655 complaints in 2009, a 22.3 percent increase on 2008.

Around 16 per cent of the complaints involved scams where crooks pretend to represent the FBI, while 11.9 per cent involved the non-delivery of merchandise or payment, the second most commonly reported allegation of wrongdoing.

419 (advanced fee fraud scams) ranked third with 9.8 per cent of complaints. Identity theft and overpayment fraud scams were also common causes for complaints.

Of these complaints 146,663 were referred to local, state or federal law enforcement agencies. Referred cases commonly involved financial loses, focusing on five categories: non-deliverey of merchandise and/or payment ranked (19.9 per cent); identity theft (14.1 per cent); credit card fraud (10.4 per cent); auction fraud (10.3 per cent); and computer fraud or hacking (7.9 per cent).

The highest median (average) dollar losses involved reported incidents of investment fraud ($3,200), overpayment fraud ($2,500), and advance fee fraud ($1,500) complainants.

IC3 takes complaints in many different categories including auction fraud, non-delivery of merchandise, credit card fraud, computer hacking, spam and child pornography. In addition to fraudulent federal agent cons, popular scam trends for 2009 included hitman scams, astrological reading frauds, economic cons, job site hustles, and pop-up ads for fake antivirus (aka scareware) software.

The IC3 has published an annual report since it began operating in May 2000. Every year since then (with the exception of 2004) has witnessed an increase in the dollar value of alleged scams reported to the agency. However, these have largely taken the form of steady increases rather than the huge leap recorded in 2009.

IC3's reports can be found here.

In almost related cybercrime trend news, businesses lost $120m in the third quarter of 2009 to phishing and Trojan-based online banking scams, according to figures from the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Small businesses lost $25m as part of these scams, FDIC specialist David Nelson told the RSA Conference earlier this month.

By contrast, regular blaggers made off with less than $9.5m in robberies of US banks during the last quarter of 2009, security blogger Brian Krebs reports. ®

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