According to what many consider a reputable source, the FBI, Internet scams have set a new dollar record ($240 million).

Here is what they wrote about it in the press release (courtesy of the FBI site):

Pets, romance, and secret shoppers.

They’re each among the top ruses used by Internet scam artists in 2007, according to a comprehensive report on online crime just issued by the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3.

Here is how the FBI described the most prevalent scams:

Pet Scams

– You see an online (or offline) ad selling a pet and send in your money, plus a little extra for delivery costs. But you never get the pet; the scam artist simply takes your money and runs. – You’re selling a pet. You’re sent a check that’s actually more than your asking price. When you ask about the overpayment, you’re told it’s meant for someone else who will be caring for the pet temporarily. You’re asked to deposit the check and wire the difference to this other person. But the check bounces and you lose the money you sent to what turns out to be a fraudster.

Secret Shoppers and Funds Transfer Scams

– You’ve been hired via the web to rate your experiences while shopping or dining. You’re paid by check and asked to wire a percentage of the money to a third party. Like the pet scam, the check is bad and you’re out the money you sent. As part of the scam, the fraudsters often use (illegally) real logos from legitimate companies.
– While renting out a property, you’re sent a check that is more than your rental fee and asked to wire the difference to someone else (are you seeing a trend here?). Or you take a job that requires you to receive money from a company and redistribute funds to affiliates via wire.

Adoption and Charity Frauds

– You get a spam e-mail that tugs on your heartstrings, asking for a pressing donation to a charity and often using the subject header, “Urgent Assistance is Needed.” The name of a real charity is generally used, but the money is really going to a con artist. One set of scams in 2007, for example, used the name of a legitimate British adoption agency to ask for money for orphaned or abandoned children.

Romance Fraud

– You encounter someone in an online dating or social networking site who lives far away or in another country. That person strikes up a relationship with you and then wants to meet, but needs money to cover travel expenses. Typically, that’s just the beginning—the person may end up in the hospital during the trip or get mugged and need more money, etc.

Fraud stats. The report provides a complete breakdown of statistics on Internet crime in 2007. For the year, total complaints were down slightly with 206,884 submissions, but total losses were at their highest level ever, nearly $240 million. See the report for plenty more details about victims, perpetrators, and common categories of complaints.

Full report, here.

Please remember that these reports are only as accurate as the data they compile. Often, I find that a lot of scam victims have no idea, where to report activity to. Because of this, I will end this post with information from the release on where to report Internet scam activity (highly recommended):

Logging a complaint is easy: just go to the IC3 website, click on “File a Complaint,” type in the details, and hit “next.” Review your information and click on “submit” when you’re ready to send. The good folks at IC3 will take it from there.

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