Internet Crime Help From Uncle Sam

One of the more interesting places to get information about crime on the Internet is the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. According to their site  the IC3

“was established as a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) to serve as a means to receive Internet related criminal complaints and to further research, develop, and refer the criminal complaints to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement and/or regulatory agencies for any investigation they deem to be appropriate.”

They provide at least three useful services:

1.       descriptions of internet crime schemes and tips to help you avoid becoming a victim,

2.       a way to file a complaint about internet crimes such that the complaint is properly forwarded to law enforcement, and

3.       an annual report with internet crime statistics.

The list of internet crime schemes ranges from “Auction Fraud” to “Third Party Receiver of Funds.” We discuss come of these issues in Learning Tree Course 468, System and Network Security: A Comprehensive Introduction. As my wife and I were recently victims of Internet fraud, this is important to me. Our case, it turns out, is common:  We arranged to rent a condo in New York City. The price was good and the description of the unit sounded interesting. We checked and found positive comments about the renter (who must have posted them himself or herself) so we went ahead and made a deposit. Upon arrival we found that dozens of people had rented the condo and it was not available for rent.

We will be using the complaint form and I will let you know if anything comes of it.

The annual reports are quite interesting. They contain statistics about complaint type (in 2011 the most frequently reported scam was people pretending to be FBI agents, in 2010 it was non-payment or non-delivery of merchandise), and location of complaints (most in the US come from California). The 2011 report also contains links from their 2010 public service announcements. I wish my friend had seen the one about “Telephone Scam Offering Virus Removal Services” before she got hit…

The summary from the 2011 report gives a hint about the magnitude of the seriousness of internet crime: “In 2011, IC3 processed over 300,000 complaints, representing dollar losses approaching a half-billion.” And that is only reported crimes. Perhaps as many as 90% of internet crimes go unreported. (How many of you have been victims and reported it through IC3?)

Go check out the IC3 site. Check the scams and prevention pages. The press section is good, too, for a look at what they’ve put out. I’ll keep you posted on anything we hear about our complaint.

John McDermott

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