The number of complaints received by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) decreased by 27,061 in 2013, but the dollar losses associated with those complaints increased by almost 50% over the previous year, according to the center’s annual report.
The number of complaints has fallen from a high of more than 336,000 in 2009 to 262,813 in 2013, the center reported. Meanwhile, the monetary losses reported by complainants increased from $581 million in 2012 to nearly $782 million in 2013.
IC3 is a joint venture of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center. A clearinghouse for complaints of Internet-based scams and crimes, the center forwards victims’ complaints to the appropriate local, state, national or international law enforcement agencies for investigation and possible prosecution. Since its establishment in 2000, IC3 has received more than 3 million complaints involving more than $2 billion in reported losses.
In 2013, roughly 45% of the complaints received by IC3 involved a monetary loss. The average reported loss was $6,245, according to the report. The United States continued to be the source for more than 90% of the complaints, followed by Canada, the United Kingdom, India and Australia. As in 2012, California, Florida, Texas and New York were the top four states for complaints. Pennsylvania replaced New Jersey at No. 5 in 2013.
Many of the most common Internet schemes remained from 2012, the IC3 reported. There were more than 14,000 complaints about auto auction fraud for losses of roughly $51 million. In most of these cases, scammers attempt to sell vehicles they don’t own by listing them online for cheap prices. The perpetrators often claim they must sell the vehicle quickly because they are moving or relocating for work, but the victim never receives the vehicle.
A similar scam involving real estate was reported by nearly 10,400 complainants in 2013 for losses estimated at $18.6 million, according to the annual report. In this scam, perpetrators take property listings from legitimate websites and post them as their own with vastly reduced rental prices. Scammers often tell victims they are doing work overseas and victims are usually asked to send the first and last month’s rent through a wire transfer to an overseas account.
In June 2014, IC3 reported that complaints of tax return fraud had doubled over the previous year. According to a press release, victims learned that bogus tax returns were filed in their name when the Internal Revenue Service informed them that they were being audited or were under review.
Others learned they were scammed when the IRS rejected their electronic tax returns because someone already had filed using the taxpayer’s Social Security number, the center reported.