Originally created 04/14/02

10,000 people report they lost $18 million to Internet fraud



CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Online scams cost nearly 10,000 Americans a total of $18 million last year, a report says.

Almost half of 16,775 fraud cases investigated by the Internet Fraud Complaint Center involved online auctions, according to the center's annual report.

Other scams included non-delivery of promised merchandise and credit card fraud. The median loss was $435.

A scam known as Nigerian letter fraud netted more than $5,000 per victim, the center said. The con involves an e-mail purportedly sent from the Nigerian government requesting use of the recipient's bank account to receive millions of dollars in funds, generally described as over-invoiced contracts. The e-mails then ask for upfront cash to pay for licenses, taxes or other nonexistent fees.

Victims of Internet cons ranged in age from 10 to 100. Those over 60 were most at risk for losing large amounts of money, the report said.

Created in 2000 and based in Fairmont, the complaint center is a joint venture of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Richard Johnston, who directs the center, expected complaints to rise from 1,000 a week to 1,000 a day next year as the center becomes better known.

But prosecuting Internet con artists will be difficult since perpetrators often live thousands of miles from their victims and jurisdictional issues often require the cooperation of multiple agencies, said Thomas Richardson, deputy assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division.

On the Net:

Internet Fraud Complaint Center: http://www.ifccfbi.gov/