Last year, almost half a billion dollars were lost because of online criminal activity, and 300,000 complaints were addressed to the FBI. According to the newly released Internet Crime Report, last yearâ€™s complaints increased over 2010 with 3.4 percent.
The most common scams included FBI-related schemes in which a criminal poses as the FBI to defraud victims, identity theft, and advance-fee fraud.
â€œThis report is a testament to the work we do every day at IC3, which is ensuring our system is used to alert authorities of suspected criminal and civil violations,â€ said National White Collar Crime Center Director Don Brackman. â€œEach year we work to provide information that can link individuals and groups to these crimes for better outcomes and prosecution of cases.â€
Based on victim complaints, the top five states hit by malicious activity were California (34,169), Florida (20,034), Texas (18,477), New York (15,056) and Ohio (12,661). Victims in California reported the highest dollar losses, at $70.5 million.
Some of the most popular tricks remained the romance scams, in which cyber crooks target people searching for their â€œone and onlyâ€ on the Internet. Over 5,600 complaints of this sort were registered by the feds last year.
The method remained as simple as ever. Scammers search chat rooms, dating, and social networking sites for victims. They get in a romantic mood, use poetry, flowers and other gifts to reel in victims, while declaring â€œundying love.â€ Victims believe they are â€œdatingâ€ someone honest, but their new partner proves to be a cyber-crook with a well-rehearsed script.
These dirty tricks not only break the victimsâ€™ heart, but also their accounts. Almost 15 people a day get caught by the romance scam, and each victim loses on average $8,900 because of love. This are only people registered by the FBI, but figures may be much higher.
According to the agency, although the principal group of victims is over 40 years old, divorced or widowed, disabled and often elderly, people of all ages are at risk.