Is cybercrime putting you at risk?

Analyzing Trends from the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2009 Annual Report

A recent report by internet security company Symantec has been widely publicized for the implications it presents for residents of certain US cities. After analyzing factors such as risky online behavior and the number of incidents per capita, Symantec released Norton’s Top 10 Riskiest Online Cities. Seattle tops the list, while Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Raleigh round out the top five.

While residents of these cybercrime hotspots should take note, a different study shows that Symantec’s riskiest cities are not necessarily home to the greatest percentage of perpetrators per capita. So where are these cybercriminals hiding?

According to the 2009 Annual Report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the District of Columbia harbors the most cybercrooks with 116 per 100,000 residents. When looking at the total number of perpetrators, however, California is number one (14.7%), followed by Florida (9.7%), New York (8.7%), the District of Columbia and Texas (both tied for 4th with 6.4%).

The report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center also concludes that cybercrime is a “truly borderless phenomenon.” In the majority of cases reported to the IC3 in 2009, the complainant and perpetrator lived in different states. For instance, in only 34.8% of crimes in California, where the majority of incidents originated, did both the cybercriminal and victim live in California. Due to the anonymity provided by the internet, cybercrime is unlike any other criminal act: the perpetrator most likely does not know the victim, nor do they need to be in the same location to commit any number of online scams and attacks.

The IC3’s annual report reflects all complaints filed with the organization in 2009. The total number of complaints numbered 336,655, a 22.3% increase from 2008.

Additionally, the total dollar loss reached $559.7 million last year, compared to $264.6 million in 2008. The mission of the IC3 is to serve “as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cybercrime.” The statistics of the report certainly support the rise in cybeattacks; however, it should be noted that the data reflects only those incidents that are reported to the IC3. In fact, the true rate of cybercriminal activity is probably much higher – a scary thought for anyone with even limited online activity.

While the IC3 report is helpful in identifying important cybercrime trends, it still doesn’t diminish the fact that anyone – regardless of where you live – can become a victim of an online scam or cyberattack. The authors of the study are careful to note: “Anyone who uses the Internet is susceptible. IC3 has received complaints from both males and females ranging in age from 10 to 100. Complainants can be found in all 50 states including the District of Columbia and in dozens of countries worldwide.”

To read the full report, visit the IC3 website. Or, if you are a victim of cybercrime, click here to file a report.

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