Non-delivery of payment or merchandise. Scams impersonating the FBI. Identity theft

These were the top three most common complaints made to the joint FBI/National White Collar Crime Center’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) last year, according to its 2010 Internet Crime Report. The report also includes a state-by-state breakdown of complaints. 

In May 2010, the IC3 marked its 10th anniversary, and by November, it had received its two millionth complaint since opening for business. 

Complaints pour in

Last year, the IC3 received more than 300,000 complaints, averaging just over 25,000 a month. About 170,000 complaints that met specific investigative criteria -- such as certain financial thresholds -- were referred to the appropriate local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. 

But even the complaints not referred to law enforcement, including those where no financial losses had occurred, were valuable pieces of information analyzed and used for intelligence reports and to help identify emerging fraud trends. 

So even if you think an Internet scammer was targeting you and you didn’t fall for it, you are urged to file a complaint with the IC3. Even if it’s not referred to law enforcement, IC3 considers your information vital in helping it paint a fuller picture of Internet crime. 

Report highlights

  • Most victims filing complaints were from the U.S., male, between 40 and 59 years old, and residents of California, Florida, Texas, or New York. Most international complainants were from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia or India.
  • In cases where perpetrator information was available, nearly 75 percent were men and more than half resided in California, Florida, New York, Texas, the District of Columbia or Washington state. The highest numbers of perpetrators outside this country were from the United Kingdom, Nigeria and Canada.
  • After non-delivery of payment/merchandise, scams impersonating the FBI, and identity theft, rounding out the top 10 crime types were: computer crimes, miscellaneous fraud, advance fee fraud, spam, auction fraud, credit card fraud, and overpayment fraud. 

2010 alerts

The report also contained information on some of the alerts sent out by the IC3 during 2010 in response to new scams or to an increase in established scams, including those involving: 

  • Telephone calls claiming victims are delinquent on payday loans. 
  • Online apartment and house rental and real estate scams used to swindle consumers out of thousands of dollars. More
  • Denial-of-service attacks on cell phones and landlines used as a ruse to access victims’ bank accounts. More
  • Fake e-mails seeking donations to disaster relief efforts after last year’s earthquake in Haiti. 


Because there are so many variations of Internet scams out there, the IC3 says it can’t possibly warn against every single one. But it does recommend that consumers practice good security: make sure computers are outfitted with the latest security software, protect personal identification information and be highly suspicious if someone offers an online deal that’s too good to be true.