IC3 annual report for 2011 released

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a collaborative effort between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the FBI, has released its 2011 Internet Crime Report. You can view or download the document here (this requires a PDF reader…if you don’t have one, I recommend Foxit).

It can be somewhat dry reading (fancy title page notwithstanding), but it includes some interesting data. The number of complaints received by the IC3 topped 300,000 for the third year running, a 3.4% increase over 2010 (but still down from the peak in 2009).

Work-at-home scams continue to be one of the top fraud types reported, though FBI impersonation scams brought in large numbers as well. I have some questions about this statistic, though: is the ratio of FBI impersonation fraud to other types reported to the IC3 genuinely reflective of their overall ratio “in the wild” (that is, including examples not reported), or is the incidence of this particular type of fraud being reported much higher than for other types because, if you get an FBI impersonation fraud email and you know it’s a scam, if you run a Google search on the scam, it’s going to direct you to the IC3 or FBI websites, where you’re asked to report it to the IC3?

I may be splitting statistical hairs here, but I’ve got an email address that gets just about every spam, scam and 419 email in the world (lucky me, eh?), and I’ve only seen one or two actual FBI impersonation messages over the past few years. Work-at-home schemes, on the other hand, simply run riot in my spam folder.

In any case, it’s a good overview of what schemes are currently most active, and at a mere 26 pages, it’s nowhere near as dull as most government documents.