The FBI notes that in 2009, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 336,655 complaints—up 22 percent from 2008. Complaints involved losses of more than $550 million.
One such Internet scam involves hackers obtaining access to a victim's e-mail account and using it to send emergency messages to the victim's friends and family. Those messages indicate that the victim has been robbed of credit cards and needs money immediately. In another scam, victims are asked to give money up front for reward funds that are never given out.
Internet retailers are sometimes involved in Internet scams, too. According to Internet Retailer (12/06/10), the owner and operator of an online luxury eyewear retail site has been arrested and charged with defrauding and threatening customers.
In one instance, the accused allegedly sent an e-mail to a customer's coworkers accusing that customer of drug dealing and homosexual practices. In another instance, he reportedly threatened the life of a woman who was nine months pregnant and also the life of her child.
The accused is charged with cyberstalking, mail fraud and wire fraud, and could face up to 20 years in prison.
Consumers who regularly shop on the Internet are warned to be wary of scams that could result in thieves obtaining consumers' personal information. Once that information is obtained, the thieves can commit identity theft and destroy the victim's credit rating, using his or her name to open credit cards and get access to money.