Internet scams have become an increasingly common occurrence. The FBI’s new Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) report identified that, in the last year alone, more than $10 billion was lost due to cyberattacks and cyber-enabled fraud, including spam calls, texts and emails.
While people of all ages are affected by these types of crimes, nearly half of the victims were over 60.
The FBI report highlighted several internet scams that cost victims millions — and in some cases, billions — in 2022.
Top Scams By Number Of Victims
According to the IC3 report, the following are the top 10 crimes by victim count as reported in 2022:
- Phishing: 300,497
- Personal Data Breach: 58,859
- Non-Payment/Non-Delivery: 51,679
- Extortion: 39,416
- Tech Support: 32,538
- Investment: 30,529
- Identity Theft: 27,922
- Credit Card/Check Fraud: 22,985
- Business Email Compromise (BEC): 21,832
Top Scams By Money Lost
The following are the top 10 crimes by the amount of loss reported by victims in 2022:
- Investment: $3,311,742,206
- Business Email Compromise (BEC): $2,742,354,049
- Tech Support: $806,551,993
- Personal Data Breach: $742,438,136
- Confidence/Romance: $735,882,192
- Data Breach: $459,321,859
- Real Estate: $396,932,821
- Non-Payment/Non-Delivery: $281,770,073
- Credit Card/Check Fraud: $2641,489,050
- Government Impersonation: $240,553,091
What To Watch Out For
The FBI report also highlighted four specific scams that people should watch out for in 2023. These include investment scams, business email compromise (BEC), call center fraud and ransomware.
It’s crucial to be aware of these scams so you can protect yourself against them.
Investment scams have become increasingly costly over the years, with the total loss reported to the IC3 rising from $1.45 billion in 2021 to $3.31 billion in 2022 — the top scam in terms of dollars lost last year. Crypto investment scams have seen the highest growth, increasing from $907 million to $2.57 billion during this period.
There are several variations of these scams, including liquidity mining, hacked social media impersonation, celebrity impersonation, real estate professional impersonation and employment scams. Victims aged 30 to 49 are the most common age group targeted by investment scams.
To protect yourself against this type of fraud, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends researching any company offering investment opportunities, understanding all fees associated with an investment and asking questions about how your money will be used. Additionally, never invest more than you can afford to lose and never provide personal information such as bank account numbers or Social Security numbers unless you are confident that a company is legitimate.
If you believe you have been a victim of an investment scam, contact your state securities regulator immediately. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also provides resources on its website for recovering from investment fraud.
Business Email Compromise (BEC)
Business Email Compromise scams are a sophisticated form of fraud that targets businesses as well as individuals, resulting in adjusted losses of over $2.7 billion, as reported to the IC3 in 2022.
These scams involve criminals taking over legitimate email accounts to access people’s financial information or money. Unfortunately, criminals have become better at this over time, now using custodial accounts at financial institutions for cryptocurrency exchanges and fake phone numbers to get victims to send them money. They can also target people’s investments.
To stay safe from this type of scam, always research any emails that ask you to update your banking information and watch out for emails with strange spellings or URLs. Don’t click on links from unknown sources, and double-check any phone numbers listed in suspicious emails before calling them. It’s also a good idea to use an extra layer of security like two-factor authentication whenever possible.
Call Center Fraud
Illegal call centers are responsible for over $1 billion in yearly losses. Primarily based in South Asia (particularly India), illegal call centers overwhelmingly target the elderly. Almost half the victims were over 60 and experienced 69% of the losses, totaling more than $724 million.
Call center fraudsters use a variety of tactics, such as posing as government personnel or tech support representatives. Some callers may also offer to “fix” an issue for the victim only to collect payments for services that were never provided.
In many cases, victims are scammed into sending payments via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.
To avoid this type of fraud, be suspicious of any incoming call offering services for payment. Do not provide personal or financial information over the phone and always use two-factor authentication (such as a code sent to your phone) when verifying identity or transactions.
If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is, so double-check with trusted sources before making any payments. You should also report suspected fraud to the FTC.
In 2022, the IC3 received over 2,300 ransomware complaints with an estimated $34.3 million in losses from data encryption and theft.
Phishing emails, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) exploitation and software vulnerability exploitation remain the top methods of ransomware scams.
In addition to these tactics, scammers have begun to pressure victims to pay a ransom by threatening to publish stolen data if they don’t comply.
To protect yourself from ransomware threats, the first step is to stay vigilant regarding emails and downloads. Never open suspicious emails or download files from unknown sources, as these could contain malware or viruses. Ensure that your computer’s security system is up to date and make regular backups of essential files using an external storage device.
The FBI Also Issued A Warning On Confidence Or Romance Scams
The FBI issued a warning recently on romance and confidence scams. These can be devastating for those affected by them. People are taken advantage of emotionally and financially in these types of scams, often resulting in severe financial losses and psychological damage.
In a romance scam, the victims are typically encouraged to form an emotional bond with someone who may not even exist. In a confidence scam, the victims are tricked into trusting someone they don’t know who then uses that trust to take advantage of them financially.
For instance, the “Hey Grandma” scam and similar heartstring-based scams are a type of confidence scam in which individuals are tricked into making monetary or material contributions due to the belief they are in an established relationship, such as with family or friends.
Scammers often make promises to meet in person but continually give excuses for why they cannot. In addition, they may ask for money once they gain your trust, often for alleged debts owed, financial assistance or travel expenses, and typically through methods that are hard to trace and recoup.
To protect yourself, be careful what you post on your social media profiles, as scammers often use the information available online to their advantage.
If you suspect something is off about a person, stop communicating with them right away. Take things slow and ask lots of questions when getting to know someone new, and don’t send money or personal information until you can verify who they are.
What To Do If You Have Been Scammed
If you have been the victim of any type of cybercrime, it’s vital to report it to the IC3. The FBI can provide essential information for recovering stolen data or payments made. Incident reporting also allows the FBI to better understand scammers’ tactics and bring perpetrators to justice.
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