According to a report released on Thursday by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), monetary damages caused by online fraud were up 20 percent in 2007. The total amount of damages reported added up to over $239 million, with a median* loss of an astonishing $680 per complaint. This is an increase of the $199 million caused in 2006. The IC3, a law enforcement agency which works closely with the FBI, receives and processes complaints dealing with auction fraud, non-delivery, credit card fraud, spam, intrusion, identity theft and child pornography. The report includes some interesting findings: Perpetrators are predominantly male (75.8%) with half of them coming from California, Florida, New York, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The majority of perpetrators come from the United States, with a significant number coming from Europe and Nigeria. Perpetrators do not seem to be sexist with thier targets, although maybe they should be. Only 57 percent of the complainants were male. However, Male complainants lost considerably more money than females, with a ratio of $1.67 to every $1.00 lost by females. This could be accredited to online spending habits or the types of schemes used against victims. Age also seems to have little or no relevance to victims. Although the stereotypical online fraud victim is a grandma helpless in the ways of the internet, the study shows that you are just as likely to become a victim whether you are 23 or 85. *Although the median loss for victims was $680 dollars, the mean loss was $2,529. This is because nearly half of complaints received dealt with monetary loss less than $1,000 but 12 percent reported loss of over $5,000. Certain incidents reported losses even larger. The biggest losers in 2007 were victims of investment fraud, with a median loss of $3,547. Yes, Nigerian letter scams did really well in 2007 - 6.4 percent of total reported loss came from those tricky African scammers, with an average $1,922 dollars lost per incident. Can't believe people fall for it? Apparently so, and when they fall, they fall hard. As one might expect, online fraud increases dramatically during the holiday season. In 2005, the number of complaints received between the months of October and December increased to 30,000 compared to the rather steady 17,000 of previous months. The report also includes some interesting descriptions of the more popular scams used throughout the year. A large amount of them, interestingly enough, dealt with the online pet trade. When the fraudsters target pet sellers, the fraudster agrees to buy the pet and sends a bad check for more than the amount asked by the seller. They explain that the extra payment is for someone who will be taking care of the pet temporarily, and to wire the amount of extra money to a bank account. If the scam is successful, the seller wires the money before the check is cleared, and the fraudster makes off with the cash before the check is found out to be fake. Tricky buggers. Romance scam was rampant in 2007. Online dating sites proved to be fruitful hunting grounds for scammers. First, the fraudster browses the site looking for potential targets. Once contact is made, he attempts to gain trust through... romantic gestures. Included in these gestures is a burning desire to meet the person, but they explain that they do not have enough money to make the trip. The scam is successful when the victim agrees to send money to pay for the transport. Then, of course, some unforeseen event occurs that prevents the fraudster with following through with the visit, the dating site account is deleted and they are never heard from again. Not only is the victim out of the money for transport, but they are in danger of shorting out computer keyboards with excessive amounts of tears. Obviously, scammers love to play on other's hearts and emotions. Another prominent scam is the Adoption Fraud, or Charity Fraud, in which large amounts of email are sent to email addresses (spam) with subjects such as "URGENT HELP NEEDED" They then of course, ask for donations for causes such as helping orphans, buying medicine for ill people, or saving the rain forest. Sometimes, they even pose as representatives from real oranizations such as the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAFF). So how are people supposed to defend themselves against these vicious attacks on even the most benevolent human impulses? Stay informed, and don't believe everything you read. If you really have trouble sorting through what is legit and what is a scam, you can check out websites like www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com or the IC3 website for the facts.