Online fraud is one of the cybercrime pests taking the biggest bite out of Australian consumers today. In 2013, for instance, the losses for victims of online shopping fraud scams alone reached a whopping $4M. And the latest statistics only show the numbers going up.
In the face of such depressing figures, many may well wonder why other statistics are not seeing similar growth. The number of people prosecuted for online fraud, for instance, or the number of successful investigations. As a matter of fact, they may well have gone up—many other countries have reported such things too.
Take a look at the famous 2011 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon in the US, for instance. Arrests, prosecutions, and investigations of online fraud had all gone up, according to it. Unfortunately, so had the number of data breaches in the year investigated.
The simple fact is that even though police officers are getting better at investigating fraudsters on the Web, the criminals are getting better at what they do too. Fraud perpetrators who are also hackers are especially talented at this, changing their methods quickly whenever they notice themselves running the risk of exposure.
But this is only one of the many reasons this particular cybercrime is so hard to beat. There are many others that enter the picture.
- Lack of Evidence from the Victim
Some people report cybercrime long after the event, which means they have most likely discarded all evidence or data that could be used to track the perpetrator. This is obviously another deterrent to police investigation. Oftentimes, victims will delete or get rid of fraudulent emails in their mailboxes after realizing they have already played into the scam, for instance. This only makes matters more difficult for investigators.
This is another big reason for so many cyber fraud cases going without investigation. The fact is that a lot of law enforcement authorities are trained for physically-present law enforcement—and not cyber law enforcement. There are only a few trained to do this, and they also have to pit their brains against those of the criminals, who are often as good as (if not better than) them at using the Web to discover useful data.
These trained cybercrime investigators are also in a minority, which leads to another issue: that of resource allocation based on priorities.
- Lack of Prioritization
While fraud is in fact common, people should consider that it is far from the only cybercrime. There is also online bullying, child prostitution, and the like. All cases in this category of criminal activity have to draw on more or less the same pool of resources in law enforcement—and given how limited those resources are, it is only natural that some cases get priority over others.
Depending on the jurisdiction, priorities may change. For most cybercrime agencies, though, the focus is typically on child prostitution online and shutting it down. As a result, online fraud cases get relegated to something of a secondary concern, so they get investigated less often.