When it comes to being taken in by Internet fraudsters, men have a knack for losing cash, according to a new report from the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Data compiled from more than 206,000 complaints received last year by the US Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) shows that men lost US$1.67 to every $1 lost by women in online fraud.
The IC3 is the clearinghouse for online crime complaints in the US, and its database is used by regulators and law enforcement to get a picture of criminal trends and, in some cases, help hunt down the criminals. It is a joint effort run by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center.
The organization says that buying patterns and human nature play into the findings.
"Historically men were more apt to purchase large ticket item like electronics ... that could explain a lot of it," said John Kane, the IC3 research manager who wrote the report.
But with women now spending more online, the difference is also due to the fact that certain types of schemes seem to suck men in. "Men tend to fall victim ... to business investment schemes and some other schemes that have a higher dollar loss," Kane said.
Investment fraud complaints, where the average loss is more than US$3,500, were overwhelmingly submitted by men, Kane said. Compare that to something like auction fraud, where both men and women are frequently victimized. The average loss there is just over US$480.
Men also tend to be the victims of check fraud (average loss: US$3,000) and Nigerian letter fraud scams (US$2,000), Kane said.
Overall, Internet crime is netting the bad guys more money than ever.
Total losses from 2007 complaints came to US$239 million, up $40 million from 2006.
The 2007 data, released Thursday, shows that the total number of complaints received by the group was actually down for the second year in a row. In 2007 the IC3 Web site logged just under 207,000 complaints. In 2005 that number was over 231,000.
Kane credited the drop in complaints to increased consumer awareness, but according to Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, there may be another explanation.
Warner spends a lot of time studying the criminals and said that in recent months, researchers have noticed that credit card numbers have often been stolen and then not used. "One theory is that nobody wants to go to jail for stealing $40," he said. "So when they get access to these accounts, they're using only the ones that they can get the most value from."
Often, criminals will do a balance check and then sell only the cards with the highest balances. "I think there's a little bit of filtering on the criminal side that's at play here," he said.
There was another interesting finding in the 2007 data. The IC3 found that many countries that were commonly linked with cybercrime were the sources of the incidents it tracked, but it did not list China as a top source of perpetrators. China has been named as the source of many online attacks over the past year, but it didn't make IC3's list of top 10 countries by perpetrators.
Leading the list were the US, the United Kingdom and Nigeria.