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Tracking a Web of Criminals

The FBI Cyber Division's Internet Crime Complaint Center finds patterns and trends in a database of 1.3 million fraud complaints.


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Narrator: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see where that scam e-mail came from? If you could plot a scammer’s location on a map, along with their victims? And then go after them?

The FBI Cyber Division’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership with the nonprofit National White Collar Crime Center, is doing just that. In any given month IC3’s website gets about 20,000 complaints. Agents and analysts wade through them to find patterns and trends, and then go after the scammers by sending the investigative leads to law enforcement agencies or FBI field offices.

Supervisory Special Agent Charles Pavelites, IC3: Anyone who’s been a victim of crime on the Internet can file a complaint with us. We don’t have thresholds for individual complaints. We like to get as much information as possible, and get as much information as possible out to law enforcement in hopes of spurring investigations.

Narrator: The FBI Cyber Division investigates the whole spectrum of Internet crimes, from auction fraud to international threats targeting the U.S. infrastructure.

Assistant Director Shawn Henry, FBI Cyber Division: It’s really important for people to understand how significant the threat is from the cyber attack vector to the U.S. economy and the U.S. infrastructure. There are many foreigners, organized crime groups, that are looking to target the U.S. financial infrastructure, because the business of the United States is done on the Internet.

Narrator: The Internet Crime Complaint Center’s database holds more than 1.3 million complaints. They can sift through the complaints to target specific frauds, or get an overall picture of current online crime trends.

Pavelites: This would be all kinds of cyber fraud, all kinds of schemes. And, these are just dots, but they represent the information that go with them that we can use to determine trends, determine loss amounts, to determine where we should be focusing our efforts in the fight against cyber crime.

Narrator: To avoid scammers’ traps, follow your instincts: don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited e-mail, and guard your personal information.

Henry: So the consumer really has to ensure that they’ve got active virus scanning in place, the most recent virus signatures up to date. They’ve got to have a firewall that monitors the connections between their computer and other computers. And they really have to monitor that and be on top of what the threats are and ensure that they’re protecting themselves to the greatest extent possible.