|Internet auction fraud was the top consumer complaint in 2001, according to figures released Tuesday by the FBI. Nearly 43 percent of all cases of Internet fraud reported last year resulted from online auctions gone bad, said the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.|
Merchandise that was ordered online but never paid for or shipped accounted for 20 percent of complaints last year, the IFCC said.
The report also shows that consumers continue to be taken in by the notorious “Nigerian 419” e-mail scheme, an old scam that entices recipients with the false promise of windfall profits in exchange for helping the sender recover millions of dollars in frozen or hidden assets.
The IFCC said the e-mail scam was the source of more than 15 percent of complaints in 2001.
Annual losses attributed to 419 scams are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according U.S. Treasury officials.
Credit card fraud and confidence fraud rounded out the top five categories of complaints referred to law enforcement last year, the IFCC said.
The IFCC’s figures contrast with statistics released earlier this year by the Federal Trade Commission, which fingered identity theft as the leading consumer complaint in 2001.
According to the FTC, ID theft accounted for approximately 42 percent of consumer fraud complaints received in 2001. Internet auction fraud placed a distant second by the FTC’s tally, making up just 10 percent of all fraud complaints.
The difference between the two agency’s findings may result from the reporting size: the FTC’s numbers were based on the breakdown of more than 204,000 consumer complaints, while the IFCC pulled its data from a pool of fewer than 50,000 complaints.
Richard L. Johnston, director of the National White Collar Complaint Center, said he anticipates that the number of Internet fraud complaints would soon rise from 1,000 a week to 1,000 a day.
“We know more Internet crime is out there, it’s just a matter of victims knowing where to go to report it and then actually reporting it,” Johnston said.
The IFCC is online at: www.ifccfbi.gov