Washington a capital for cyber criminals 

Losses to online scams double nationally The District of Columbia has more cyber criminals per capita than anywhere else in the country, according to new study.

For every 100,000 people, the District has 116 cyber crime perpetrators, 10 more per capita than second-ranked Nevada, an analysis of 2009 cyber crime complaints released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center said.

Maryland ranked 19th with nearly 30 per 100,000 people and Virginia was 28th with 24 per 100,000, The center, a joint operation between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, is a central depository for cyber crime complaints from around the country.

While the number of complaints the center received in 2009 climbed by 22 percent to 336,655, the reported loss to victims more than doubled to nearly $560 million from $265 million the year before. FBI Special Agent Don Good, who heads the Washington Field Office's cyber crime unit, said many cyber crimes start in Eastern European countries or Nigeria. "Those criminals may now be coming to Washington because its international population makes it an easy place to hide," Good told The Examiner.

Cyber criminals in the United States often work in concert with their colleagues overseas, he said. Among the FBI's most wanted fugitives is Tobechi Onwuhara, who allegedly ran a Washington-area ring that stole more than $40 million and included Sen. Strom Thurmond's former chief of staff among its victims.

Onwuhara, 30, is accused of collaborating with people in his native Nigeria to run his international scams. In 2009, nearly 17 percent of the complaints the center received were the result of a scam in which the perpetrator claimed to be affiliated with the FBI in an effort to gather personal information from victims, the report said.

Computer users should "evaluate e-mail solicitations they receive with a healthy skepticism," Peter Trahon, section chief of the FBI's Cyber Division, said in a statement. "If something seems too good to be true, it likely is."



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Freeman Klopott


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