Online crime up in 2003

A lot

It seems 2003 was a productive year for phishers, online auction scammers and Nigerians professing a deep sense of purpose and utmost sincerity, judging from the latest stats from the Internet Fraud Complaint Center.

The center reports receiving over 120,000 online fraud complaints through its website this year -- an increase of 60% over the 75,000 complaints counted in 2002.

Launched in May, 2000, the IFCC is run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) -- a federally-funded, non-profit organization. The center's website provides cyber crime victims with a convenient route for reporting fraud. Following the September 11 attacks, it also briefly doubled as the official path for the public to submit tips about the terrorists and their conspirators.

Last week, the center announced it was renaming itself as the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or "IC3," to reflect the broad nature of complaints it handles, including international money laundering, on-line extortion, intellectual property theft and computer intrusion, in addition to identity theft and the usual array of online scams.

"Through already strong but growing partnerships with NW3C, private sector and foreign and domestic law enforcement, we have built a solid foundation to address today's cyber criminals no matter where they are or how complex their schemes may be," said Jana Monroe, assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division, in a statement.

The West Virginia-based center's 62-person staff analyzes each complaint, puts it in a database and sends it on to the appropriate FBI field office or local law enforcement agency for further investigation.

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