According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), losses from cybercrime in 2007 were 17 percent greater than in 2006. The vast majority of crimes involved pets, checks, and online dating sites and were perpetrated primarily via email, with Web sites as the second most frequently used platform.

IC3 is a joint effort between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. IC3 accepts complaints from individuals and businesses, investigates the complaints, and refers them out to the proper legal authority for further investigation.

In its annual report IC3 said that it received a few hundred fewer complaints in 2007 than it did in 2006 and 2005; however, total losses from all complaints in 2007 totaled $239.09 million--a larger amount than any other year in IC3's 7-year history of tracking such data. Of the people who registered complaints, 57.6 percent were men and those men lost more money on average to cybercrime than women, possibly due to the nature of the scams. Interestingly enough, most of the perpetrators were found to reside in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The biggest area of complaint was Internet auction fraud; however, investment fraud and check fraud cost victims far more than other types of crimes. After years of news coverage, including television news specials focused on the matter, criminals running the now famous "Nigerian Letter Fraud" still find easy prey, making it the third largest problem in terms of loss among those who file complaints. The scam coaxes victims into thinking they'll earn big money for helping to move funds from one country to another. IC3 reports that the average loss for the letter fraud victims is $1,300, although some victims lose tens of thousands of dollars.

"The Internet presents a wealth of opportunity for would be criminals to prey on unsuspecting victims, and this report shows how extensive these types of crime have become," said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James E. Finch. "What this report does not show is how often this type of activity goes unreported. Filing a complaint through IC3 is the best way to alert law enforcement authorities of Internet crime."

IC3's complete annual report is available in PDF format online at the group's Web site.