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The DOJ must deal with the scourge of online fraud

The DOJ must deal with the scourge of online fraud

Last week, Federal Office of Research release The annual report on internet crime and the numbers on internet fraud were predictable and worrying.

It was another record year. The office received 791,790 complaints of “Internet-enabled crimes” in 2020 (69 percent more than the previous year) and accounted for more than $ 4.1 billion in reported losses (up 20%). These complaints included numerous crimes such as phishing, spoofing, extortion, data breaches and identity theft. Collectively, they point to further evidence that the Department of Justice has failed to commit Internet fraud effectively.

From the beginning of pandemic, the scope and frequency of this criminal activity has become significantly worse. Online scammers have stolen government support checks, sold fake test kits and vaccines, and exploited altruistic impulses from the U.S. public through fake charities. But the widespread failure has caused incalculable damage to the U.S. public over the years, among our most vulnerable populations and those without technology, such as older people. The latest FBI report makes it clear that the government needs to make significant progress and rethink its approach to tackling Internet-based fraud – including how to monitor the problem, as well as how to punish and prevent these crimes more effectively in the future.

The FBI has been dealing with Internet crime numbers for two decades constantly rising. Moreover, these figures are likely to rarely underestimate the amount of magnitude. There are two reasons for this: First, the government does not conduct surveys to collect data on the prevalence of financial fraud. for other crimes. And secondly, fraud in general is a significantly little reported a crime, as many people are ashamed to report being deceived.

I am well aware of these problems. While working in the Department of Justice, I directed the prosecution of a massive Internet-based scam from Israel that victimized people around the world by fraudulently marketing financial instruments called “binary options”. Ten thousand people lost a total of about $ 145 million. It wasn’t easy, but in 2019, largely thanks to the work of two FBI agents in two and a half years (and a little luck), we were able to condemned Lee Elbaz, the company’s CEO, along with lower-level participants. Unfortunately, these results are very few.

One of the main reasons that internet fraud remains a persistent and serious problem is that the Department of Justice has never made it a real priority, in part because these types of cases are not particularly attractive to prosecutors. The losses of the victims individually are relatively small and very scattered. A large number of such crimes also occur abroad, and it can be difficult and bureaucratically cumbersome to obtain evidence from foreign governments, especially from countries with such fraud. de facto large industry which employs a lot of people. It is also much more difficult to find and secure witnesses who are colleagues when the perpetrators are outside our boundaries. Even in the best of circumstances, it can be very difficult to gather and analyze the abundant documentary evidence that fraud cases involve. If you manage to overcome all of these obstacles, you may eventually have to deal with extradition-related cases before anyone has ever seen the inside of the court. To make matters worse, a large part of the press does not consider these cases particularly notable – it is a symptom of how it has become a common scam on the Internet – and like prosecutors being inside Press.

The situation in the Trump administration worsened. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the number of defendants charged with “crimes against the white collar” – including internet fraudover and over again he fell all the time low in those four years. And like a lot federal government According to Trump, there have been requests for punishments from the Justice Department for fraud even less effective, because they were taken and mismanaged by unqualified and sometimes incompetent officials.

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