The Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) based in the United States was founded seven years ago. It acts as a clearing house that helps both individual victims and law enforcement agencies find the appropriate agency to investigate online crimes. Although it is a US government institution, the IC3 serves individuals, companies, and law enforcement agencies both in the US and internationally. Its primary mission is to determine who should investigate and prosecute a given complaint. Thanks to the fact that Internet-based frauds have been a booming business, the IC3 fielded its one-millionth complaint last week.
Given that many Internet-based crimes cross over international borders and may involve layers of intervening machines, the job of the IC3 is not as simple as it sounds. In many cases, the queries fielded by the IC3 are complaints that have been forwarded by law enforcement officials who can't figure out jurisdictional issues.
As the original name implies, fraud was the initial focus of the IC3, but the organization has broadened its scope to include a wide range of crimes, including intellectual property disputes, hacking and computer intrusions, economic espionage, online extortion, money laundering, and identity theft. Currently, auction fraud and online scams comprise the majority of the complaints received.
Out of the million complaints, over 450,000 have been forwarded on to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The frequency of auction fraud has kept the median financial loss in the area of USD 270 per complaint; although the IC3 estimates total losses in the cases they've handled to be nearly USD 650 million.
In addition to allowing a complaint to be filed online (protected by SSL encryption of course), the IC3 has pages dedicated to both tips for avoiding becoming a victim and a rundown on some of the most common schemes currently in play (refer the web pages below). Although most of this information will be old news to a tech savvy audience, the pages are probably well worth a visit, even for those whose only interaction with the Internet is email.
Useful information on avoiding computer crime:
Avoid becoming a victim of computer crime: http://www.ic3.gov/preventiontips.aspx
Common fraudulent schemes on the Internet: http://www.ic3.gov/crimeschemes.aspx