Internet scams that dominated in 2012

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released the 2012 Internet Crime Report – a summary of reported fraudulent activity in the past year.

In 2012, the IC3 received and processed 289,874 complaints, averaging more than 24,000 complaints per month. Unverified losses reported to IC3 rose 8.3 percent over the previous year.

The most common complaints received in 2012 included FBI impersonation e-mail scams, various intimidation crimes, and scams that used computer “scareware” to extort money from Internet users.

According to the the report, in 2012 the IC3 received about 47 complaints per day about FBI impersonation e-mail scams. In these types of scams, the name of FBI Director Robert Mueller is often misused, and the emails are a mishmash or combination of get-rich inheritance scenarios, bogus lottery winning notifications and occasional extortion threats. With an average adjusted loss of approximately $141 per complaint, victims reported losing more than $6,604 to this scam every day.

Intimidation / extortion scams include telephone calls from individuals claiming the victims’ computer is infected and offering to disinfect it for a fee (and then gaining access to the computers via RATs), payday loan scams, process server scams, and the grandparent scam (fraudsters call elderly victims, impersonate a young relative and ask money to be wired because of a bogus emergency).

Hit man scams, in which the fraudster claims to be a hit man hired to kill the victim, have been around for seven years or so. In 2011 / 2012 this type of scam took the form of emails claiming that the recipient will be assassinated unless they converted to Islam or paid a fine of $8,000 within five business days, emails purportedly sent by “Agent Bauer” of the International Intelligence Bureau offer the recipient a chance to purchase a security alarm and protection from the bureau, and emails claiming that the victim will be killed and the death will be staged to appear accidental.

Scareware / ransomware scams included straight-up pop-up scareware, the Citadel malware, and IC#-themed ransomware.

Other reported scams include real estate scams, romance scams, auto fraud, and so on.

The report contains examples and explanations for all of them, so I advise you to recommend it to family members and friends you believe might fall for some of these.

As an interesting side note – according to the statistics included, it seems that fraudsters are able to bilk more money of women than men with these all types of scams apart from the scareware / ransomware ones. Still, these statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, as the losses are self-reported by the victims and unverified by the IC3.

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