It is a common belief that cybercrime emerged with the introduction of the Internet. However, the history behind what we know today as cybercrime dates to the 1830s with the invention of the telegraph. In the early years, cybercrime was not malicious but instead born out of curiosity for how this new technology worked.  The first cyber-attacks were more like misdirecting calls and listening in on conversations.  As communication technology advanced, so did cybercrime.  Today it is responsible for financial losses exceeding $4.2 billion.  With technology continuing to advance and cybercrimes becoming more and more sophisticated, this seems to be an endless war.

Due to the recent pandemic, society became dependent on the Internet for almost every aspect of our lives, and all this made a perfect playground for cybercrime.  On March 17, 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigations Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released its annual report, Internet Crime Report 2020, which includes COVID-19 Scam Statistics.  The FBI IC3 website provides the American public with a channel for reporting:      

  • internet crime complaints with the IC3;
  • suspected terrorism or threat complaints with the FBI; or
  • complaints to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

This information is collected and analyzed for use by local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies to investigate perpetrators, as well as for public awareness.

The data collected by the IC3 in 2020 reached record levels due to COVID-19.  Below are a few of the “hot topics of 2020” discussed in the report.

  1. Business Email Compromise (BEC) and Email Account Compromise (EAC) is a scam that targets both businesses and individuals, in which the perpetrator performs unauthorized transfers of funds enabled through social engineering.
  2. IC3 Recovery Asset Team (RAT) was established in 2018 to facilitate communication with financial institutions and assist FBI field offices with freezing of funds for victims who made transfers to domestic accounts under fraudulent pretenses.
  3. COVID-19 relief related fraud and the CARES Act were major targets for fraudsters, with the IC3 receiving complaints involving grant fraud, loan fraud, and phishing for Personally Identifiable Information (PII).  Several states had to put unemployment insurance claims on hold for weeks because of identity theft schemes.
  4. Tech Support Fraud, whereby the criminal impersonates someone who provides customer security, technical support, or service to defraud victims, is a growing concern.  Tech Support Fraud perpetrators often pose as customer support for financial institutions, utility companies or virtual currency exchanges.

On a positive note, the IC3 RAT was successful in freezing approximately $380 million of the $462 million in reported losses due to BEC scams, which represents a nearly 82% success rate.  If you are a victim of an internet crime, you can submit a complaint to the FBI IC3 website.

Remember, if you see something, say something!Learn more about the FBI IC3 at their website, www.ic3.gov.  You can read the FBI IC3 Internet Crime Report 2020 at https://www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/AnnualReport/2020_IC3Report.pdf.