Pin Me

What is Cyber Crime?

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 2/26/2010

While a consumer’s definition of cyber crime may vary, the FBI designates four areas of illegal activity to fall under this heading. Cyber crime statistics bear out that this form of criminal activity is on the rise. Have you been a victim?

  • slide 1 of 6

    FBI Definition of Cyber Crime

    The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) recognizes four instances of cyber crime(1):

    1. Cyber crimes against children (usually involving child pornography or child rape)
    2. Theft of intellectual property
    3. Publication and intentional dissemination of malware
    4. National and international Internet fraud

    The United States’ executive branch defined a National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, which put the FBI and the Department of Justice in charge of cyber crime investigation and prosecution.

  • slide 2 of 6

    Cyber Crime Statistics

    The 2008 Internet Crime Report(2) reveals that between January 1 and December 31, 2008, a total 275,284 complaints were filed. This number shows slightly more than a 33 percent increase, when compared to the previous year. Cyber crime in 2009 is likely to have increased even more. The total loss associated with these cyber crime cases topped $264 million.

  • slide 3 of 6

    What is Cyber Crime (according to statistics)?

    Cyber Crime and Financial Losses It is interesting to note the various natures of reported offenses. The annual report suggests that almost 33 percent of complaints dealt with non-delivered goods or missing payments. These allegations were closely followed by auction fraud complaints – more than 25 percent – and credit or debit card fraud at nine percent.

    Another example of computer cyber crime is the con, which may be perpetrated via the now famously infamous Nigerian chain letters and also check fraud as well as other instances of computer fraud.

    It is noteworthy that these latter categories constituted the highest individual dollar losses. Median losses here ranged from $1,650 to $3,000 per incident, while the overall median loss per cyber crime was little more than $931 per complaint.

  • slide 4 of 6

    Beyond Cyber Crime Laws: Prevention

    Running an online vendor’s information through the Better Business Bureau database is a highly recommended first step. When doing business with a private party – especially on an auction site – keeping a close eye on the vendor’s (or buyer’s) feedback is a must.

    Sending payments of any kind to post office boxes should pose a red flag; the same holds true for a seller who claims to be in the United States but asks to have payments sent to a foreign country. Varying cyber crime laws between countries make it hard, if not impossible, to recover any losses.

  • slide 5 of 6

    How to Report an Incident

    The definition of cyber crime might have the casual or frequent Internet user suspect that he has become the victim of an incident. Reporting a cyber crime is possible at a number of venues:

    • Child pornography or any form of child exploitation falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI as well as the Internet Crime Complaint Center(3).
    • Trademark counterfeiting, copyright violations and other intellectual theft must be reported to the FBI.
    • Hacking and instances of malware distribution also fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI, although when perpetrated on a government level, the Secret Service(4) also has jurisdiction.
    • General Internet fraud and instances of spam should be reported to the FBI, the Secret Service’s financial crimes division, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Securities and Exchange Commission(5) (for securities fraud), as well as the Federal Trade Commission(6).
  • slide 6 of 6


    1. Federal Bureau of Investigations. “Cyber Investigations” (accessed February 25, 2010)
    2. 2008 Internet Crime Report (accessed February 25, 2010)
    3. Internet Crime Complaint Center
    4. Secret Service
    5. Securities and Exchange Commission
    6. Federal Trade Commission