Internet Fraud: 300,000 complaints filed last year


Complaints about undelivered merchandise ordered online led the list, but a federal report released Thursday says less than half of all complaints were referred to law enforcement.

More than 300,000 complaints of possible Internet fraud were filed last year with a federal center, but fewer than 122,000 of them were deemed worthy of referring to law enforcement agencies, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported Thursday.

The number of complaints was down somewhat from more than 336,000 filed in 2009. The center provided no definitive reason for the drop, but said “a possible explanation is that complaint levels are normalizing as businesses and consumers discover and implement ways to make previously uncharted areas of online commerce safer and more reliable.

Nevertheless, Center officials cautioned against reaching any conclusions about trends because the center handles only an unknown proportion of the total complaints.

The top category of complaints—more than 14 percent of the total–was that people ordered merchandise that wasn't delivered.

Second place went to Internet messages in which scammers claimed to be from the FBI—13.2 percent—but many of those cases were referred to the center merely for information and no actual scam was alleged.

Auction fraud formerly was the leading category of complaints, but it fell to 8th place last year..”

Only a small fraction of reported Internet fraud results in federal criminal investigations. The FBI opened 122 cases, which resulted in 31 arrests, 6 convictions, 17 grand jury subpoenas and 55 search/seizure warrants.

The West Virginia-based center has had its staff cut in half in the last five years and is no longer providing current estimates on the dollar value of alleged Internet fraud.

The public may file complaints with the center here.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists

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