The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released its 2011 Internet Crime Report on Thursday, revealing some of the top scams and cybercrime trends for the year.
All totaled, the IC3 said it received and processed 314,246 complaints in 2011, averaging out to 26,000 complaints per month. These numbers represent a 3.4 percent increase over the number of complaints received in 2010. The reported dollar loss was $485.3 million.
Topping the list of complaints received during the year were FBI-related scams—schemes in which a criminal poses as the FBI to defraud victims, along with identity theft, and advance-fee fraud.
While 2011 marked the third year in a row that complaints exceeded 300k, 2009 holds the record for the most complaints at 336,655.
Interestingly, romance scams turned out to be one of the most damaging to victims, costing them $8,900 on average. In romance scams, scammers target individuals who are looking for love online and trick them into engaging in an online relationship. “Scammers use poetry, flowers and other gifts to reel in victims, while declaring ‘undying love,’” the report explained. “These criminals also use stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, personal injuries or other hardships to keep their victims concerned and involved in their schemes. They also ask victims to send money to help overcome alleged financial hardships.”
The IC3 said losses from romance scams totaled $50.4 million in 2011, a rate of 15 complaints received per day, or more than $5,700 per hour.
Some interesting facts and figures from the 2011 report include:
• The adjusted dollar loss of complaints was $485.3 million
• Median dollar loss reported per complaint was $636
• Just 36.9 percent of the complaints received reported a financial loss
• The average loss was $4,187 for those who did report a financial loss
• The top five states with complaints were California (34,169), Florida (20,034), Texas (18,477), New York (15,056) and Ohio (12,661)
• 51.76 Percent of complaints were filed by males; females filed 48.24 percent.
What’s done with all the complaints?
“IC3 analysts use an automated matching system to identify links and commonalities between numerous complaints and combine the respective complaints into referral groups for law enforcement,” the report notes.
In order be able to take action based on all the information coming in to the IC3, the center developed a remote access system in 2011 to make the data available to over 30,000 FBI employees. Additionally, IC3 says its system is connected to the remote access tool on Law Enforcement Online (LEO), which serves over 150,000 users, enabling them to aggregate victims and losses to substantiate criminal activity within the agency’s area of jurisdiction and to enhance the development of cases.
Additionally, the National White Collar Crime Center designed an “Internet Complaint Search and Investigation System” (ICSIS) to help with Internet related investigations and allow IC3 analysts and law enforcement to easily build and share case information.
Formed in 2000, IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The full report can be found here.