April 16, 2003, 12:00 AM

Fraud complaints to an Internet watchdog group triple in one year

Of 48,252 fraud complaints referred in 2002, auction fraud at 46% topped the list, followed by non-payment and non-delivery at 31%.

For the third year in a row, web watchdog group the Internet Fraud Complaint Center logged in more complaints in 2002 about auction fraud than any other type of fraud. Comprising 46% of the 48,252 fraud complaints the group referred to federal, state and local law enforcement authorities, auction fraud topped complaints about non-delivery and non-payment of goods purchased online, which represented 31% of complaints, and credit/debit card fraud, 12%. The remaining complaints covered a mix of scams such as Nigerian letter fraud, check fraud, and others.

The 49,800-plus complaints referred to law enforcement authorities tripled the number of referrals, 16,775, made by the Internet Fraud Complaint Center in 2001. The total dollar loss from all referred fraud cases was $54 million, up from $17 million in 2001. Among complaints that reported a dollar loss, the highest median dollar losses were found among Nigerian letter fraud, $3,864; identity theft, $2,000 and check fraud complaints, $1,100. California, New York Florida, Texas and Illinois were the top five states for victims of Internet crime.

In addition to complaints referred to various law enforcement authorities, the Internet Fraud Complaint Center processed an additional 36,920 complaints not considered fraud, on Internet activities such as computer intrusions, SPAM, child pornography and other violations of law. These complaints were referred to the appropriate agencies ranging from the Federal Trade Commission to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Only one in four complaints contacted a law enforcement agency before filing a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. “As online usage continues to climb, consumer education must focus not only on preventive strategies but also on where an individual can turn for help. IFCC is in a position to handle such an effort to help victims and assist law enforcement,” says Richard L. Johnson, director of the National White Collar Crime Center. IFCC is co-managed by the National White Collar Crime Center and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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