FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) published the 2019 Internet Crime Report which reveals that cybercrime was behind individual and business losses of $3.5 billion as shown by the 467,361 complaints received during the last year.
IC3 says that it has received 4,883,231 complaints since its inception in May 2000, with an average of around 340,000 complaints per year and over 1,200 complaints per day during the last five years.
These resulted in recorded losses reported by victims of $10.2 billion over the last five years, between 2015 and 2019.
“The most frequently reported complaints were phishing and similar ploys, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion,” the report says,
“The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromise, romance or confidence fraud, and spoofing, or mimicking the account of a person or vendor known to the victim to gather personal or financial information.”
Donna Gregory, the chief of IC3, said that in 2019 instead of cybercriminals using new types of fraud to steal money from their victims, they were adopting new techniques and tactics to further evade detection while carrying out their scams.
“Criminals are getting so sophisticated,” Gregory added. “It is getting harder and harder for victims to spot the red flags and tell real from fake.”
“In the same way your bank and online accounts have started to require two-factor authentication — apply that to your life. Verify requests in person or by phone, double-check web and email addresses, and don’t follow the links provided in any messages.”
The IC3 also says that the Recovery Asset Team (RAT) established in February 2018 was able to help cybercrime victims recover funds lost due to various types of Internet crimes.
“The RAT, which was established as a standalone team in 2018, completed its first full year of operation in 2019, assisting in the recovery of over $300 million lost through online scams, for a 79% return rate of reported losses,” the FBI says.
BEC scams still behind most victim losses
The 2019 cybercrime type with the highest reported total victim losses, BEC (Business Email Compromise) also known as EAC (Email Account Compromise) reached almost $1.8 billion in losses according to 23,775 recorded complaints by targeting wire transfer payments of both individuals and businesses.
“These scams typically involve a criminal spoofing or mimicking a legitimate email address,” the report explains. “For example, an individual will receive a message that appears to be from an executive within their company or a business with which an individual has a relationship.
“The email will request a payment, wire transfer, or gift card purchase that seems legitimate but actually funnels money directly to a criminal.”
During 2019, IC3 observed an increased number of diversion of payroll funds BEC complaints where fraudsters send emails a company’s human resources or payroll department requesting direct deposit info updates while posing as an employee.
If their request is met, the employee’s paycheck will generally be sent to a criminal-controlled pre-paid card account instead.
Victims encouraged to report malicious activity
Also during 2019, the IC3 received 13,633 Tech Support Fraud complaints from victims residing in 48 countries, with recorded losses amounting to over $54 million, representing a tremendous 40 percent increase when compared to 2018.
According to IC3, the vast majority of victims that sent complaints reporting tech support fraud scams were over 60 years of age.
In 2019, the IC3 also received 2,047 complaints related to ransomware incidents, with adjusted losses of over $8.9 million.
“Information reported to the IC3 plays a vital role in the FBI’s ability to understand our cyber adversaries and their motives, which, in turn, helps us to impose risks and consequences on those who break our laws and threaten our national security,” assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division Matt Gorham said.
“It is through these efforts we hope to build a safer and more secure cyber landscape,” Gorham added, encouraging both businesses and individuals to contact the local FBI field office to report any malicious activity.
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