I’ve started watching that new show White Collar on USA recently and, I have to say, it’s pretty entertaining. While the characters (with their Hollywood good looks and witty one-liners) are fictitious, many of the crimes they solve are based on true events. There is actually a National White Collar Crime Center that works with the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. According to a new study the organization just put out, white collar crime—online fraud in particular—is soaring.
Online scams on the rise
Internet-based fraud earned cybercriminals $559.7 million last year—more than double the figure from 2008. It’s no mystery as to why scamming people online is so popular: it’s fairly easy to do, the criminal can remain largely anonymous, and their methods continue to get more varied and sophisticated—meaning that victims are often at least one step behind the perpetrators.
336,655 people submitted complaints of online fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2009. The median dollar loss from these scams was $575. Interestingly, the largest number of complaints came from those aged 40-49. That same age group also had the highest median loss of $700.
The top three scams reported in 2009
- Phishing e-mails claiming to be from the FBI
- Merchants who never sent the merchandise they promised, or buyers who never sent the payment they promised
- “Nigerian” scams in which criminals try to lure wire transfers out of innocent e-mail recipients
If you find yourself the victim of internet fraud, there are several agencies out there that can help you recover. Start by checking out the SpendOnLife list of Identity Theft Resources.