Cyber Crooks Doubled Their Take in '09: FBI


The latest data from the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) confirms what online banks, security software vendors and Internet users have been complaining about for years: cybercrime is skyrocketing and costing people millions of dollars with no end in sight.

The report (available here in PDF format) from the IC3, a partnership between the FBI, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National White Collar Crime Center, found that the total number of cybercrime complaints rose 22 percent in 2009 to 336,655 cases, but less than half of those crimes (146,663) were forwarded to authorities for investigation and prosecution.

Almost $560 million in losses related to identity theft, phishing scams and outright fraud were reported last year, more than double the $264.4 million lost in 2008 despite increased consumer awareness and reporting.

Ironically, e-mail scams using the FBI's name or likeness were the most reported type of fraud, accounting for 16.6 percent of complaints, according to the report. Another 11.9 percent reported cases of non-delivered merchandise or payment from sites like eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) or other online shopping and commerce sites.

Advance fee fraud checked in at 9.8 percent followed by identity theft and overpayment fraud.

The average dollar loss was $575 per incident and men lost considerably more than women, losing $1.51 for every dollar lost by women.

"Although this report can provide a snapshot of the prevalence and impact of cybercrime, it is worth noting that knowledge of the 'typical' victim or perpetrator of these types of crimes does not imply that atypical Internet users are safe, or that atypical individuals do not commit Internet crimes," IC3 officials said. "Anyone who uses the Internet is susceptible."

The report said that more than 75 percent of the people perpetrating cybercrimes were men and that the District of Columbia had the highest rate of cybercriminals with 116 thieves for every 100,000 residents. Nevada checked in second with 106 for every 100,000 residents, followed by Washington State (81), Montana (68) and Utah (60).

On the bright side, IC3 said its role as a complaint-receiving bridge between victims and law enforcement agencies has helped bring attention to more online scams, resulting in high-profile busts, such as October's Operation Phish Phry dragnet that resulted in the largest cyber fraud phishing takedown in U.S. history.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.