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updated: 5/26/2013 4:30 PM

FBI: Fewer fall for Internet scams, but pay dearly

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Fewer people are falling for Internet scams, but those who do are losing more money to criminals.

That's one conclusion that can be drawn from a recent report issued by the FBI's Internet Computer Complaint Center, or IC3.

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Last year, the center fielded fewer complaints for Internet fraud and crime than in 2011.

The actual number of people who got scammed also dipped by less than 1 percent from 115,903 in 2011 to 114,908 in 2012, but the overall dollar amount lost and average dollar amount lost both increased, according to a comparison of the reports.

Overall losses in 2012 were $525.4 million, up nearly 8.3 percent from $485.3 million in 2011. In cases where people actually lost money, the average loss in 2012 was $4,573, a 9.2 percent jump from the $4,187 average loss in 2011.

Overall complaints were 289,874 in 2012, a decrease of 7.75 percent from 314,246 in 2011. That's also down nearly 14 percent from the high mark of 336,665 complaints in 2009.

Overall, California accounted for the most losses by state at $68.1 million. Florida and Texas were second and third, respectively, with losses of $34.4 million and $30.4 million. New York was fourth at $28.1 million and then Illinois at $14.3 million.

People who live in Vermont were the least victimized, losing $563,267.

In Illinois, people between 50 and 59 accounted for the most complains with 2,356, losing $5.4 million, or an average of $2,292 per case.

Next were people 40 to 49, accounting for 1,660 complaints and losing $3.7 million total, for an average of $2,218.

People 60 and older only reported 996 cases, but lost more than $2.3 million, or an average of $2,358.

For folks 20 to 29, there were 1,515 cases and $889,749 in losses. Those in the 30 to 39 group reported 1,513 cases and $1.8 million in losses.

People 20 and younger reported 2,257 complaints with a total loss of $126,046.

Auto fraud, in which criminals try to sell vehicles they do not own, is at the top of the list for scams. Criminals usually post ads for cars at less than market value, saying they need to sell because they are relocating, being deployed, or just need cash fast.

To make the transaction appear more legitimate, they have the victim wire a partial payment or deposit to a third party and have the victim fax a receipt as evidence of payment. Of course, the money is kept and no vehicle is ever delivered.

"In a new twist, the criminals have attempted to pose as dealers instead of individuals selling a single car. This allows them to advertise multiple vehicles for sale at one time on certain platforms, potentially exposing more victims to the scam," according to the IC3 report.

Last year, men were more susceptible to car scams, logging 10,877 complaints compared to 6,282 for women.

hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

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