The FBI have claimed that the cost of internet fraud and online scams more than doubled in 2009, with the cost to businesses and consumers now put at a staggering $559.7m.

Figures from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3), showed a dramatic increase in the total bill of online fraud in the US, rising from £265m in 2008 to more than half a billion dollars in the past year. That equates to an average cost per complaint of $575, the biggest annual increase since record began in 2005.

“The figures contained in this report indicate that criminals are continuing to take full advantage of the anonymity afforded them by the internet,” said Donald Brackman, director of the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).

“They are also developing increasingly sophisticated means of defrauding unsuspecting consumers. Internet crime is evolving in ways we couldn’t have imagined just five years ago. With the public’s continued support, law enforcement will be better able to track down these perpetrators and bring them to justice.”

A total of 336,655 complaints were made in 2009, a 22.3% increase on the previous 12 months, with 19.9% of complaints relating solely to the non-delivery of merchandise and/or payment. Identity theft was the next most complained about issue, making up 14.1% of complaints with 10.4% of complaints relating to credit card fraud, marginally ahead of online auction fraud.

In terms of financial fraud, the average loss of investment fraud was put at $3,200 whilst advance fee fraud (also known as 419 scams), cost users an average of $1,500.

Men lost more money than women by a ratio of $1.51 lost per male to every $1.00 lost per female whilst Internet users between the ages of 40-49 reported the biggest levels of loss.

“Law enforcement relies on the corporate sector and citizens to report when they encounter on-line suspicious activity so these schemes can be investigated and criminals can be arrested,” said Peter Trahon, section chief of the FBI’s Cyber Division.

“Computer users are encouraged to have up-to-date security protection on their devices and evaluate e-mail solicitations they receive with a healthy scepticism—if something seems too good to be true, it likely is.”

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