Q&A  | 

An overview of cybercrime worldwide, with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

"IC3 received a record number of complaints from the American public in 2020: 791,790,with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion".

Tags: 'cybercrimes' 'digital scams' 'FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center' 'Tech Support Fraud'


Reading Time: 3 minutes

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center is one of the most important hubs for internet crime analysis worldwide: it hosts a portal where victims report internet crime and alert the public. It performs complaint referrals and asset recovery and partners with private sector and local, state, national and international agencies.

Which have been the prevalent cybercrimes in 2020?

First in the list was phishing/vishing/smishing/pharming. This is the use of unsolicited  email,  text  messages,  and  telephone calls purportedly from a legitimate company requesting personal, financial, and/or login credentials.

Second is non-payment/non-delivery (e.g. online purchases), third was extortion and fourth personal data breach. 

Spoofing or contact information (phone number, email, and website) deliberately falsified to mislead and appear to be from a legitimate source, and confidence or romance frauds are also common.

The most profitable cyberscams were BEC (Business Email Compromise) and confidence or romance frauds.

Which population groups are more affected by cybercrime?

40 to 49ers and people over 60 are the most affected by cyber scams, the latter predominantly so. Victims over the age of 60 are targeted by perpetrators because they are believed to have significant financial resources. 

They may encounter scams including Advance  Fee Schemes,  Investment Fraud Schemes,  Romance  Scams,  Tech  Support  Scams,  Grandparent  Scams,  Government  Impersonation Scams, Sweepstakes/Charity/Lottery Scams, Home RepairScams, TV/Radio scams, and Family/Caregiver Scams.

If the perpetrators are successful after initial contact, they will often continue to  victimize  these  individuals.  

As  a  result  of  the  significant  increases  and  impact  of  scams  targeting  the  elderly,  IC3  is  planning  to release its first annual report focusing entirely on Elder Fraud in 2021.

Are tech support scams growing significantly?

Tech Support Fraud  continues  to  be  a  growing  problem.  This  scheme involves  a  criminal  claiming  to  provide  customer,  security,  or  technical support or service to defraud unwitting individuals. 

Criminals may pose as support  or  service  representatives  offering  to  resolve  such  issues  as  a compromised email or bank account, a virus on a computer, or a software license renewal.

Recent complaints involve criminals posing as customer support  for  financial  institutions,  utility companies,  or  virtual  currency exchanges. Many victims report being directed to make wire transfers to overseas accounts or purchase large amounts of prepaid cards. Although  pandemic  lockdowns  caused  a  brief  slowdown  to  this fraud activity,  victims  still  reported increases in incidences and losses to tech support fraud. 

In 2020, the IC3 received 15,421 complaints related to Tech Support Fraud from victims in 60 countries.

The  losses  amounted  to  over  $146 million,  which  represents  a  171 percent increase  in  losses  from 2019. The majority of victims, at least 66 percent, report to be over 60 years of age, and experience at least 84 percent of the losses (over $116million).

Which were the top international victim countries?

Excluding the USA, the United Kingdom was first, followed by Canada, India, Greece, Australia, Southafrica, France, Germany and Mexico. Spain appears in the 14th position. 

How did the COVID19 pandemic impact cybercrime?

In 2020, while the American public was focused on protecting our families from a global pandemic and helping others in need, cyber criminals took advantage of an opportunity to profit from our dependence on technology to  go  onan Internet  crime spree. These  criminals  used phishing,  spoofing,  extortion,  and  various  types  of Internet-enabled  fraud  to target  the most  vulnerable  in our  society -medical  workers  searching for personal protective equipment,families looking for information about stimulus checks to help pay bills, and many others.

IC3  received a  record number of complaints from the  American  public in  2020: 791,790,with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. This Represents a 69% increase in total complaints from 2019. 

One of the most prevalent schemes seen during the pandemic has been government impersonators. Criminals are reaching out to people through social media, emails, or phone calls pretending to be from the government.  The scammers attempt to gather personal information or illicit money through charades or threats. 

As the response to COVID-19 turned to vaccinations, scams emerged asking people to pay out of pocket to receive the vaccine, put their names on a vaccine waiting list,or obtain early access. Fraudulent Advertisements for vaccines popped up on social media platforms, or came via email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources.

How can we protect ourselves from scammers?

Using extreme caution in online communication. Verify the sender of an email. Criminals will sometimes change just one letter in an email address to make it look like one you know.

Also, be very wary of attachments or links. Hover your mouse over a link before clicking to see where it is sending you.

Question anyone offering you something that is “too good to be true” or is a secret investment opportunity or medical advice. 

Rely on trusted sources, like your own doctor, the Center for Disease Control, and your local health department for medical information and agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and Internal Revenue Service for financial and tax information.