Web fraud costs victims $180M

Victims lost more than $180 million in web fraud incidents reported by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) last year, according to the IC3's fifth-annual Internet Crime Report.

The center logged more than 228,400 internet crime complaints last year, 97,076 of which were forwarded to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, according to the report.

Of those, the median dollar loss was $424 per complaint. Total reported losses were up nearly 170 percent, from $68 million in 2004. In 2001, the inaugural year of the report, losses totaled $17.8 million, according to the report.

Victims of the Nigerian email scheme suffered the largest median loss - $5,000 – and check fraud victims lost a median of $3,800, according to the report published by IC3, a partnership between the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center.

Fraud conducted through auction websites was the most common offense, comprising 62.7 percent of referred complaints, the report showed. Most of the problems were caused by undelivered merchandise and credit card fraud.

Of the complainants , 64 percent were male, with nearly half between ages 30 and 50. Most live in the United States, but IC3 also received complaints from Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Germany and Japan. Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of the perpetrators were male.

But IC3 warned against generalizing the statistics.

"Although this report can provide a snapshot of the prevalence and impact of internet fraud, care must be taken to avoid drawing conclusions about the 'typical' victim or perpetrator of these types of crimes," the report said. "Anyone who utilizes the internet is susceptible, and IC3 has received complaints from both males and females ranging in age from 10 to 100 years old."

Some of IC3's referrals led to arrests and convictions. Among them is Gilbert Vartanian, recently indicted by a Sacramento, Calif., grand jury. He is accused of defrauding eBay buyers of nearly $100,000 when he failed to send them tickets to major sporting events.

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