Internet Crime Report: All Too Familiar?

March 23, 2010

IC3 2009 Annual Report on Internet Crime

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership among the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) released the 2009 Annual Report about fraudulent activity on the Internet. From January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) Web site received 336,655 complaint submissions. The vast majority of referred cases contained elements of fraud and involved a financial loss by the complainant. The total dollar loss from all referred cases was $559.7 million with a median dollar loss of $575.

Complaints received by IC3 cover many different fraud and non-fraud categories, including auction fraud, non-delivery of merchandise, credit card fraud, computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited email, and child pornography. On January 1, 2009, IC3 implemented a new complaint classification system based on a redesigned questionnaire that generates an automatic classification of the complaint into one of 79 offense-based categories. (See Appendix I of the Report).

Significant findings related to an analysis of the complaint data include:

  • Email scams that used the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) name (schemes in which the scammer pretended to be affiliated with the FBI in an effort to gain information from the target) represented 16.6% of all complaints submitted to IC3.
  • Non-delivered merchandise and/or payment (in which either a seller did not ship the promised item or a buyer did not pay for an item) accounted for 11.9% of complaints.
  • Advance fee fraud (a scam wherein the target is asked to give money upfront- often times- for some reward that never materializes) made up 9.8% of complaints.
  • Identity theft
  • Overpayment fraud (scams in which the target is given a fraudulent monetary instrument in excess of the agreed-upon amount for the transaction, and asked to send back the overpayment using a legitimate monetary instrument)

Of the top five categories of offenses reported to law enforcement during 2009,

  • non-delivered merchandise and/or over-payment ranked 19.9%;
  • identity theft, 14.1%;
  • credit card fraud, 10.4%;
  • auction fraud, 10.3%; and
  • computer fraud (destruction/damage/vandalism of property), 7.9%.

In addition to FBI scams, popular scam trends for 2009 included hitman scams, astrological reading frauds, economic scams, job site scams, and fake pop-up ads for antivirus software.

Of the complaints involving financial harm that were referred to law enforcement, the highest median dollar losses were found among investment fraud ($3,200), overpayment fraud ($2,500), and advance fee fraud ($1,500) complainants. 

In those complaints in which perpetrator information is provided, 76.6% were male and half resided in one of the  following states: California, Florida, New York, the District of Columbia, Texas, and Washington. The majority of reported perpetrators (65.4%) were from the United States. A number of perpetrators were also in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, Malaysia, and Ghana.

Among complainants, 54% were male, nearly two-thirds were between the ages of 30 and 50, and a little over one-third resided in one of the following states: California, Florida, Texas, or New York. The majority of complainants were from the United States (92%). However, IC3 received a number of complaints originating in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Puerto Rico.

Male complainants lost more money than female complainants (ratio of $1.51 lost per male to every $1.00 lost per  female). Individuals 40-49 years of age reported, on average, higher amounts of loss than other age groups.

Read the Complete IC3 2009 Report at