Americans lost more than $6.9 billion to Internet crime and theft last year, according to a new report from the FBI. In a report released late last month, the Internet Crime Report tracks complaints made by Americans regarding cybercrime, its extensiveness, and the threats cybercrime pose to the United States.
The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center report found that in 2021, “America experienced an unprecedented increase in cyberattacks and malicious cyber activity,” and that the growing threats are becoming “increasingly intertwined with traditional foreign intelligence threats.” The center, also called IC3, has handled over 6.5 million complaints since it was founded in May 2000, per AARP.
In a sign of just how alarming cybercrime is becoming, a record 847,376 complaints were reported to the FBI, a 7% increase from 2020. The top incidents included ransomware, business email compromise (BEC) schemes, and criminal usage of cryptocurrency, with BEC schemes resulting in nearly 20,000 complaints causing roughly $2.4 billion in adjusted losses.
Last year also saw two notable cyberattacks that harmed parts of the U.S. economy, with the most infamous being the Colonial Pipeline hack. The damaging cyberattack, caused by Russian hackers, interrupted the flow of petroleum across the East Coast of America. Another hack occurred in the spring of 2021 targeted JBS Foods, causing a slowing of the meat supply chain nationwide.
The FBI states that the rising cybercrime shows “the urgent need for more cyber incident reporting,” as the problem is a worsening one. The approximately 847,000 complaints and nearly $7 billion lost to cyber criminals last year represented the worst year of cybercrime in the last five years, with complaints more than doubling compared to 2017’s roughly 300,000 complaints made.
Phishing Rises, Older Americans Targeted
The crime of phishing especially, where the cybercriminal sends fake emails from seemingly reputable companies with the goal of conning individuals into disclosing their personal information, saw a significant increase from between 2020 and 2021, with more than 323,000 phishing crimes reported last year.
Broadly, cybercrime attacks rose 7% from 2020, and older people were most affected. People over the age of 60 made the most complaints, over 92,000, and also saw the most losses, totaling $1.68 billion.
While older people were most affected, people in their 30s and 40s also saw substantial losses from cybercrime, with people in their 30s seeing over $937 million and people in their 40s seeing over $1.19 billion in losses last year.
Reflecting how these states are some of the most populated in the nation, California saw the most total victim losses per state, and was the only state in the country to see over $1 billion in victim losses. California also saw the most victims per state, 67,095, followed by Florida, Texas, New York and Illinois, per the IC3 report. The states of South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont saw the fewest number of victims per state.
Similar to the wider rise of cryptocurrency in 2021, last year also saw significant losses. Cryptocurrency losses “grew nearly sevenfold to $1.6 billion from $246 million in 2020,” a notable increase even as overall cryptocurrency theft complaints declined from 35,229 in 2020 to 34,202 in 2021, AARP reports.
Severe Tech Support Fraud
Widespread tech support fraud was reported last year, with the $347 million in losses representing by far the worst year in fraud out of the previous five. The $347 million in losses last year are a 137% increase from 2020, and most of the victims are senior citizens. Senior citizens also make up most of the losses, 68%, stolen from tech scammers, per the IC3’s report.
Tech support fraud involves a cybercriminal posing as a security or technical support specialist to defraud unsuspecting people. The IC3 received almost 24,000 Tech Support Fraud complaints.
With increased complaints, as well as growing phishing and tech support fraud, it is more important than ever for Americans to take proactive cybersecurity steps to secure their accounts to stay safe online.
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