(TNS) — Internet crimes are growing more sophisticated and more financially devastating, according to research by Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Forensic Accounting.
The financial toll of cybercrime in Florida jumped from $95 million in 2015 to $178 million in 2018, according to an FAU analysis of FBI data.
Some cybercrime — such as a ransomware attack that crippled the city of Riviera Beach — is widely publicized. But the shadowy nature of Internet fraud means many crimes go unreported.
“The numbers are probably much bigger than what we see here,” said Michael Crain, director of FAU’s Center for Forensic Accounting.
Crain examined FBI data for six large states and found the highest toll in California, with $451 million in losses in 2018. FAU identified $201 million in losses in New York and $196 million in Texas.
Scammers’ take from each crime is rising. Florida’s total victims increased from 20,000 in 2015 to 24,000 in 2018, indicating the overall cost of crimes is rising more quickly than the number of people being victimized.
The average cyberscam cost a Florida victim $4,750 in 2015. By 2018, that toll had risen to more than $7,400.
Email scams are the most common form of cybercrime, FAU found. The thieves who took down Riviera Beach’s computer system used an emailed virus to commit their crime.
Other categories of cybercrime include what FAU calls “confidence fraud/romance,” which involves manipulating the emotions of victims; corporate data breaches; real estate and rental fraud, including phony wire instructions to consumers about to buy homes; and credit card fraud.
The borderless nature of the Internet allows overseas scammers to target Americans.
“Until about 20 or 30 years ago, we could actually see people who were a threat to our personal safety and the theme was be aware of your surroundings,” Crain said. “Now, criminals can be in another country sitting in their house at a computer and victimize someone.”
©2020 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.