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

 2001 siliconvalley and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Nearly 10,000 Americans reported losing $18 million in online 
scams last year, according to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center's annual report.

The average loss for those scammed was $435. Almost half of the 16,775 fraud cases 
investigated by the center were people complaining they were duped in online auctions. 
Other scams included non-delivery of promised merchandise and credit card fraud.

A scam known as Nigerian letter fraud netted more than $5,000 per victim who 
complained to the center. 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. Scammers then ask 
for upfront cash to pay for licenses, taxes or other nonexistent fees.

Victims of Internet cons ranged from 10 to 100 years old and were scattered worldwide. 
Most complainants were male, with an average age of 39. Victims over age 60 were most 
at risk for losing large amounts of money, with a far higher proportion losing more 
than $5,000 than any other age category, according to the report.

Created in 2000 and based in Fairmont, the complaint center is a joint venture of the 
FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. In addition to fraud, the center also 
fielded complaints involving child pornography and computer intrusions.

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.


 2001 siliconvalley and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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