A pilot program targeting Internet crime—focused on establishing a model for sharing information and coordinating investigations—was recently launched by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the state of Utah. “
The Utah pilot is the first step in our efforts to fix a gap that the FBI and our state and local law enforcement partners have recognized exists in the investigation and prosecution of Internet fraud,” said Richard McFeely, executive assistant director of the Bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. “Because not all Internet fraud schemes rise to the level necessary to prosecute them in federal court, we are enhancing how we package the investigative leads we receive at IC3 and disseminating those packages directly to state and local agencies.” Based on the initial results of the Utah pilot, he said, the FBI plans to expand it to other states.
Internet fraud and other Internet-based crimes for profit cause untold financial losses each year. The IC3 reports that in 2012 alone, victims reported more than $500 million in losses due to crimes like fraudulent auto sales, intimidation/extortion scams, online dating fraud, scareware and ransomware, auction fraud, charity fraud, and computer intrusions. Our new initiative, led by IC3 with the assistance of our Cyber and Criminal Investigative Divisions, combines law enforcement resources to strategically pursue criminals responsible for these kinds of crimes.
How the program works. Using its complaint database and its analytical capabilities, IC3 personnel create actionable intelligence packages that are connected to particular geographic regions. These packages can highlight trends, identity individuals and criminal enterprises based on commonalities of complaints, link different methods of operation back to the same organization, and detect various layers of criminal activity. They will also contain results of preliminary investigative research performed by IC3 analysts, including criminal record checks and basic web domain searches.
Once the packages are complete, they are submitted to the local FBI cyber task force for further action, giving investigators a leg up on any case before the first interview is even conducted. Our cyber task forces, located in every field office, are made up of FBI agents, other federal representatives, and state and local law enforcement dedicated to investigating a whole range of cyber threats, including Internet crime.
In the Utah pilot program, our agents team up with officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Investigation, along with federal and local prosecutors. Decisions are made jointly whether to prosecute locally or federally, or if violations of local statutes can be combined in a federal prosecution going after an entire criminal enterprise that operates across jurisdictional lines.
Another vital aspect of our focused effort to investigate Internet crime is partnering with state agencies charged with the regulatory policing of the various entities being investigated—like consumer protection bureaus—as well as federal regulatory agencies. Our cyber task force in Salt Lake City has made those partnerships a priority.