Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Cyber crime losses in US almost 'double' during 2009

Dollars by laptop.Corbis
Net criminals cashed in during 2009, suggests a report.

US losses to online crime almost doubled during 2009, reveals a report.

Losses totalled $560m (£371m) in 2009, up from $265m (£176m) in 2008, showed the annual report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Complaints about online fraud grew 22% during 2009 and the IC3 received more than 336,655 reports of high-tech crime incidents from victims.

The most popular scams involved requests for advanced fees and non-delivery of merchandise.

Death threat

Non-delivery accounted for almost 20% of all complaints with ID theft being the subject of 14.1% of the total crimes reported.

"Internet crime is evolving in ways we couldn't have imagined just five years ago," said Donald Brackman, director of the National White Collar Crime Center which helped draw up the report.

One scam that proved popular in 2009 involved people receiving an e-mail from the "Ishmael Ghost Islamic Group". The sender claims he has been told to assassinate the recipient and their family. Only by giving a donation to a UK group that helps Islamic expatriates will the death threat be lifted.

While the average loss from online fraud during 2009 was $575 the total jumped significantly because some victims lost enormous sums to criminals, said the report. About 1% of the crimes reported involved losses of more than $100,000.

More than half of those falling victim, 55%, were aged 40 or older.

The report also tried to put figures on the character of the hi-tech crime population. Figures it gathered suggest that 76% of criminals are male and more than 50% of them live in six locations; California, Florida, New York, Texas, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The IC3 is backed by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center and was set up so those who fall victim to scams can easily report the incident.

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