In general, illegal activity with a computer can be termed a cyber crime. With the advent of the internet, cybercrime has exploded – not surprising: over a billion people use the internet worldwide. There is no shortage of potential targets, and victims and perpetrators can be separated by oceans.
The anonymity of the Internet makes for low costs and leaves little trace, and cyber criminals can be solo operators or part of larger systems, possibly even linked to organized crime. Ironically, technology makes it easy to create fraudulent online material that appears identical to legitimate entities’ internet marketing web pages.
The increase in internet activity has led to more prosecution. Because of the anonymity of those who commit these crimes, it is easy for law enforcement officers to make indirect use of the prosecution of the wrong people.
Unified Law Enforcement Action
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a joint program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States. Ministry of Justice (DOJ’s) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), a non-profit organization committed to supporting law enforcement in its fight against ‘economic and high-tech crime’.
IC3 is a clearinghouse for complaints about cybercrime and related civil law violations. Complaints filed with IC3 online will be reviewed by analysts and forwarded to local, state, federal, or international law enforcement officers or civil authorities authorized to investigate and prosecute potential cybercrimes.
IC3 released its report on cybercrime from 2009 in March and the findings show an explosion of illegal online activity. For example, the number of complaints filed with IC3 rose by more than 22 percent in 2009 from 2008. The monetary loss from online fraud nearly doubled to about $ 560 million from $ 265 million the year before.
The number of online criminal complaints increased again significantly last year, the report said. IC3 received 336,655 complaints in 2009, an increase of 22.3 percent from 2008. The total loss from online fraud in 2009 was $ 559.7 million, compared to $ 265 million in 2008.
This growth has put pressure on law enforcement to do “something” about the problem. This usually means that the police arrest more people and prosecutors prosecute more. The increasing pressure on law enforcement can lead to an “urgency in the judgment”, so that false innocent are charged with innocent people.
Common types of financial cyber crime
Identity theft: Someone can do it steal your identity by using personal information such as your Social Security Number (SSN), driver’s license number, or credit card account number to commit fraudulent transactions such as opening credit or bank accounts, taking out loans, or making large purchases. The Internet can be the vehicle for stealing personal information as well as using it to misrepresent and steal online. Such crimes can seriously damage ratings.
Internet fraud: The internet can be used to commit many illegal acts of fraud. Emails, chat rooms and websites are used to conduct various fraudulent schemes. Fraud can be used to approach individual victims online, engage in fraudulent business activities, or mislead banks and other financial institutions.
Incomplete transactions: In any exchange of goods or services for money, the parties must act in good faith and rely on each other to complete the transaction. Unfortunately, when things are bought over the internet, any batch can be burned. The seller can keep the money and not ship the item, or the buyer can keep the item and not pay. Many variations on this theme are performed daily in cyberspace.
Online auction fraud: Auction sites typically involve allegations of economic fraud. Auction websites hold virtual auctions for a variety of items and are extremely popular with the public. Unfortunately, fraud can take place in several ways, such as:
- A seller should never send the item to the winning bidder upon receipt of payment
- A seller can ship an inferior, damaged or knockoff product
- A buyer can submit a high bid to stop other bidders and withdraw it at the last minute so that an employee’s low bid is successful
- A salesperson can have someone increase the bids
International cybercrime: Schemes with an international scope include invitations to participate in foreign lotteries and cash offers in exchange for money transfer assistance to the United States or to foreign accounts for supposedly sympathetic causes. Nigeria is often associated with these dangerous offers, specifically called 419 schemes with reference to a section of the Nigerian Criminal Code.
Phishing – Phishing is an attempt to obtain personal information by using an email that appears to come from a trusted source such as your bank, asking that sensitive data be sent by return email. Phishing emails are often sent en masse.
Counterfeit websites – Those with technical expertise can create professional looking fake charity websites designed to obtain personal information while collecting donations.
Protect yourself from excessive persecution
With the wide variety of cybercrime and the massive increase in their frequency, law enforcement is under pressure to prosecute anyone they suspect of cybercrime. The novelty of the methods used to commit cybercrime often means that many law enforcement agencies – with little investigative experience – are unwilling to fully investigate these cases. In this context, mistakes are often made in determining who should be charged with a particular cyber crime.