Study says internet fraud cost $US17.8 million in 2001

Business lost more money to internet fraud last year than individuals, and men lost more money than women, according to the annual report of the Internet Fraud Complaint Centre (IFCC).

          Business lost more money to internet fraud last year than individuals, and men lost more money than women, according to the annual report of the Internet Fraud Complaint Centre (IFCC).

          Auction fraud was the most common type of crime reported to the Washington-based IFCC, which is operated jointly by the FBI and the nonprofit National White Collar Crime Centre (NW3C), but the Nigerian email scam hit its victims the hardest.

          According the report, 42.8% of the 16,775 complaints the IFCC received last year concerned auction fraud, with the average loss for auction fraud victims pegged at $US395. However, the highest per incident loss was $US5575 for victims of the Nigerian email fraud. According to the report, just .6% of the 9864 people who reported a monetary loss, or 59 people, admitted losing money to that particular scam.

          The Nigerian scam has gotten so much attention that the US Secret Service is now investigating it, says Ronda Ellcessor, a spokeswoman for the Richmond, Virginia-based NW3C.

          The government of Nigeria recently set up a website to combat the scam. But the site has since been taken down, and attempts to reach government officials there have been unsuccessful.

          Identity theft also cost victims a lot of money, with the 2249 people who reported a monetary loss saying they were fleeced for a median of $US3000 per victim.

          In total, the report says that $US17.8 million in losses were reported to the centre in 2001, with a median dollar loss of $US435.

          The report also included the following details:

          -- More than half of all fraudsters live in California, New York, Florida, Texas and Illinois.

          -- One-third of all victims live in California, Texas, Florida and New York.

          -- Eighty-one percent of fraudsters and more than 70% of their victims are men.

          Despite the lack of a clear relationship between age and amount lost, most of those who lost $US5000 or more were over 60.

          Ellcessor says the report is drawn up to give law enforcement agencies a picture of what is happening and help them coordinate crime-prevention efforts. She says the NW3C is funded through a grant from the US Department of Justice and has tracked all types of white-collar crime, from credit card fraud to child pornography, for 10 years.

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