WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- Nearly $250 million worth of individual losses from Internet fraud was reported by Americans to the FBI last year, the bureau said.
The figures were released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the non-profit National White Collar Crime Center, in its seventh annual report on Internet crime this week.
The $239 million loss represents a 20 percent growth from fraud losses reported to the center in 2006, and officials say it represents just a fraction of the total costs of cybercrime to the U.S. economy.
"These are actual dollar losses reported by real victims to our center," FBI Cyber Division Deputy Assistant Director Shawn Henry told United Press International. He noted that the figure included only fraud cases reported by individuals and that the level of unreported crime was difficult to estimate.
"You don't know what hasn't been reported," he said, adding that some cybercrime estimates included the economic costs of losses to company income caused by other kinds of offenses, like security breaches.
He said the FBI had set the center up so as to have a place where it could get a look at national trends and other aggregate information about crimes that might normally not get on the radar of federal prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors have thresholds that a crime has to cross before they will investigate. "A hundred dollar fraud is not going to catch anyone's attention, but if you have a thousand of them all over the country, you are looking at $100,000 fraud," he said. "That should be on the radar" of federal investigators.
The center, which receives complaints from members of the public and refers them to appropriate law enforcement agencies, said it received a total of 219,553 complaints last year and referred more than 90,000 of them.
The complaints included allegations of non-fraud crimes such as computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited e-mail and child pornography.
The total dollar loss from all cases of fraud referred by the center was $239.09 million, with a median dollar loss of $680 per complaint. This was an increase from $198.44 million in total reported losses in 2006.
The most prevalent fraud reported was auction fraud, followed by non-delivery. The most expensive for its victims was investment fraud, the least expensive credit card fraud.
The center makes its database of complaints accessible to federal, state and local law enforcement "to support active investigations, trend analysis, and public outreach and awareness efforts," according to its Web site.
Shaun Waterman, UPI Homeland and National Security Editor