Soaring cost of e-crime

The Internet continues to present a wealth of opportunities for would-be criminals to prey on unsuspecting victims

Apr 24, 2008
By Paul Jacques
Andy Marsh

The Internet continues to present a wealth of opportunities for would-be criminals to prey on unsuspecting victims.

The cost of global e-crime jumped to a record $240 million last year, with the UK ranking number two in the world for cyber criminals.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) – a joint operation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center – reported a $40 million jump from 2006 in the cost of international e-crime.

The IC3 2007 Internet Crime Report revealed that the UK ranked second globally behind the US for the number of perpetrators of e-crime – accounting for 15.3 per cent of the global total – and third for victims, with 1.1 per cent of the total.

IC3 received 206,884 complaints of crimes committed over the Internet during 2007. Of those, more than 90,000 were referred to law enforcement agencies.

“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 Finch. “What this report does not show is how often this type of activity goes unreported.”

Although Internet auction fraud was the most widely reported complaint, others cited in the report include fraudulent activity such as non-delivery of purchases and credit/debit card fraud, and non-fraudulent activity such as computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited email, and child abuse images. In an effort to raise public awareness, the report also describes the characteristics of commonly reported scams such as those involving the purchase or sale of pets, check scams, email spam, and online dating fraud.

IC3 is a hub for international complaints about cyber crime, mainly originating from the US. The National White Collar Crime Center, a Bureau of Justice Assistance program, provides a upport system for US agencies involved in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of economic and hi-tech crimes.

In the UK, a survey by IT forum shows that police are not taking cyber crimes such as hacking, denial of service attacks and online fraud seriously.

In a poll of more than 100 readers, 83 per cent said police should place a higher priority on e-crime than they do now, compared to other crimes. Just six per cent said cyber crime should be a lower priority for police and 11 per cent of readers said the police have the balance “about right”.’s ‘e-Crime Crackdown campaign’ is calling for a national UK cyber crime police unit to provide leadership and expertise to coordinate investigations nationwide and collate reports from police forces across the country, as well as offering a central point of contact for reporting e-crime.

It is a view echoed by almost three-quarters of businesses which are demanding a central or national body to deal with e-crime in the UK.

Research conducted for the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said that 94 per cent of businesses had suffered from spam in the last three months, with 31 per cent claiming to have been the victim of phishing. In 2004, when the last report was carried out, there was no category on phishing, which showed the changes in cybercrime during the last four years. Malware was also impacting on nearly a quarter of businesses.

The study, Invisible Crime: A Business Crime Survey, looked at 3,900 businesses nationwide.

BCC policy advisor Gareth Elliott, said: “What we want to see is a national body that can take action, because obviously computer crime is not location specific and does not fit in to regional police forces.”

The Metropolitan Police head of computer crime has already endorsed plans for an e-crime unit but talks are still continuing over funding.

Conservative Shadow Home Secretary David Davis has described cybercrime as a “serious threat to individuals, business and government”.

A Conservative report on e-crime

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