Online Identity Fraud on the Rise
As if face-to-face fraudulent activity wasn’t enough, both ID theft and online fraud rose 3.4% in 2011 and continue to increase. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a private company that works in partnership with the FBI’s Cyber Division, announced that for 2011 it had received 300,000 complaints of identity theft and online fraud; totaling $485.3 million in losses.
The IC3 annual report combines data from all over the country and unsurprisingly, the states with high populations have the highest instances of online fraud. Of the 300,000 plus complaints reported in 2011, 115,903 resulted in a financial loss to the victim; averaging $4,187 per person.
The top five crime types were: FBI-related scams in which criminals posed as the FBI; identity theft; advance fee fraud, in which criminals attempted to convince victims to pay an advance fee for something of value that would never be delivered to the victim; non-delivery of purchased merchandise; and overpayment. Typical schemes range anywhere from romance scams in which scammers typically seek money from older and divorced individuals to auto-auction fraud where people sell vehicles online that they never owned.
The IC3 warns that the frightening thing about online fraud is that the possibilities of how it can occur are nearly endless, and the landscape of the crimes is constantly changing. To avoid becoming just another statistic, be wary of unfamiliar emails seeking personal information and use a separate debit card with limited funds when shopping online.
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