Losses Rise in Online Scams

By: By CHRISTINE SIMMONS
By: By CHRISTINE SIMMONS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Money lost in Internet-related crimes hit a new high last year, topping about $240 million, according to a government report showing increases in scams involving pets, check-cashing schemes and online dating.

The number of reported Internet scams dropped slightly from previous years, but the total lost jumped $40 million, according to the report released Thursday by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

The report, based on data from the Internet Crime Complaint Center, shows men lost more than women on average - $765 compared to $552 for women.

The report also shows the amounts lost increased with age. Victims in their 20s lost $385 on average while people over 60 reported lost an average $760 per scam.

The most common crime reported was auction fraud, in which consumers did not get the right merchandise they paid for. A consumer might "pay $25 for a DVD that somebody actually recorded in the back of a movie theater," said FBI spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan.

The second most common crime was non-delivery of a purchased good, followed by confidence fraud, in which scammers ask consumers to rely on them, resulting in a financial lost.

About half the losses involved amounts less than $1,000 and one-third involved amounts between $1,000 and $5,000.

The jump in money lost online might be due to new scheming techniques and generally more expensive electronic items being purchased online, said John Hambrick, a spokesman for the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The report cites repeated increases over the years in pet scams, online dating fraud, spam e-mail and "phishing," in which scammers send phony e-mails to retrieve consumers' personal or financial information.

Many cases of crime involve scammers asking for charity relating to crises. Milhoan said scammers tried to profit from the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minnesota last year in which 13 people were killed.

"The scammer tries to prey on victims who are kind of in tune with what's going on in the world," she said. "The scam changes, but ultimately they're preying on the good will of people."

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On the Net:

Report: http://www.ic3.gov/media/annualreport/2007-IC3Report.pdf

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