There is a lot of data and statistics regarding online scams and internet fraud. How do we put it all together? In lay terms, who is being scammed, what kind of money are they losing online, what scams are most popular, and where is this internet fraud originating?
It’s hard to write an article like this without giving dull lists of numbers; this is compounded by there being various reports and studies out there. A UK report will be more skewed to the UK; a US report towards the US, etc. Therefore, I’ll add some numbers, but will try and provide a more general overview.
Who is being scammed?
Regardless of the study, victims of internet fraud seem to be overwhelmingly from the US and UK. Without ranking them, Canada, India, South Africa, Nigeria, and UAE are the next top countries where online scam victims have reported losses.
What kind of money is being lost?
The Internet Crime Complaint Center report received 289,874 complaints in 2012. Total loss reported to them was $525,441,110 USD, with the average dollar loss for those reporting a loss at just over $4500 USD. However, 91% of these complaints came from the US, with most of the loss to victims there. This data is only from reports on internet fraud to one agency.
Another study, by RSA’s Anti-Fraud Command Centre, shows that in 2012 consumers and business in the UK lost an estimated £27 billion to cybercrime. Of the £6 billion consumers lost, £405.8 million was attributed to phishing attacks. According to this study, this makes the UK the world’s most ‘phished’ country with 10 times the phishing loss compared to the US.
This only scratches the surface in terms of what kind of monetary loss is happening on a global scale. Also consider that those figures do not take into account individuals who did not report their losses to online scams.
What are the most common internet scams?
Even with all the online fraud data out there, there’s not a clear picture of any kind of rank or order to which are the most common scams. In any case, these were clearly the most popular in 2012 (in no particular order):
Vehicle sale / escrow / courier scams
Impersonation letter / ‘Nigerian email’ / Next-of-Kin / 419 scams
Intimidation / Extortion / ‘Hitman’ scams
Scareware / Ransomeware scams
Where is this fraud originating?
Again, it’s hard to find accurate figures depicting where all of these various types of fraud originate. In general, the most common countries where internet scams were originating in 2012 were:
UK / Romania / Spain / Ukraine / Russia
Nigeria / Ghana / Cameroon / Ivory Coast / Benin / Togo
It would be nice to now provide statistics regarding arrest rates. Some of these fraudsters are getting arrested for their crimes, but information is sporadic and hard numbers aren’t available. What’s clear is that there were not nearly enough. Hopefully 2013 will be better.