Computer Crime Research Center


Internet fraud is in Top 10

Date: February 20, 2004
Source: The

Internet fraud is one the most distributed computer crimes. Now it is listed in the TOP 10 frauds.

Internet fraud is ranked 8th - Federal Trade Commission figures show that "cyberfraudsters" took in $122 million in 2002. Typical scams included e-mails from those representing themselves as Nigerian or West African government or business officials who needed help to deposit large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.

This list also includes:

Ponzi schemes - Promise high returns to investors and use money from previous investors to pay new investors.

Senior fraud - Volatile stock markets, low interest rates, rising health care costs, and increasing life expectancy have created a perfect climate for fraud against senior investors, who are being targeted with increasingly complex scams promising inflated returns.

Promissory notes - Short-term debt instruments are often sold by independent insurance agents and issued by little-known or nonexistent companies promising high returns - upwards of 15 percent monthly - with little or no risk.

Unscrupulous brokers - State securities regulators receive complaints from investors about brokers who cut corners or resort to fraud to fatten their own wallets.

Affinity fraud - Scammers make use of victims' religious or ethnic identity or any other connection to build a relationship, gain their trust and steal their money.

Insurance agents, other unlicensed securities sellers - Some unscrupulous independent insurance agents are lured by high commissions into selling fraudulent or high-risk investments, such as promissory notes, ATM and payphone investment contracts, and viatical settlements.

Prime bank schemes - Although negative publicity has caused con artists to avoid explicit reference to prime banks, their fraudulent schemes now feature "risk free guaranteed high yield instruments" or other deceptive terms.

Mutual-fund business practices - More than a dozen mutual funds are under investigation, and several mutual funds and employees have pleaded guilty, been charged, or settled with state regulators.

Other issues arising in Oregon include "directed brokerage," which means mutual fund companies give firms or advisors incentives to recommend their funds over competitors' funds; "soft dollars," which refers to fund companies paying higher transaction costs and sometimes receiving inappropriate kickbacks; and "wrong fund," in which financial advisers direct fund owners to purchase the wrong fund class, depriving fund holders of discounts.

Variable annuities - Regulators are concerned that investors aren't being told about high surrender charges and steep sales commissions agents often earn when they move investors into variable annuities. People are misled with claims of guaranteed returns when variable annuity returns actually are vulnerable to the volatility of the stock market.

The 2004 ranking of scams, schemes and scandals is based on a survey of state securities regulators conducted by the North American Securities Administrators Association Inc. Fraud ranking is based on prevalence and seriousness as identified by regulators.
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