This past year, most Americans were focused on the pandemic and dealing with the economic impact and disruptions to their daily life. At the same time, criminals took advantage of new economic programs, a distracted public and an increase in online activity to commit fraud in record numbers.
The information released in the FBI 2020 Internet Crime Report is staggering when it comes to the sheer scope of the crimes committed. Here are some of the key findings from the report.
Record Number of Complaints
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) provides information to the public regarding cybercrime and allows citizens to report crimes directly to the government. Last year, the IC3 received a record 791,790 complaints, a 69% increase over 2019. For reference, the average number of annual complaints over the last five years has been 440,000.
Losses in the Billions
Losses caused by cybercrime totaled $4.2 billion. The costliest crimes were business email compromise schemes with losses of $1.8 billion and phishing scams with losses of $54 million.
Older Age Groups More Vulnerable
Going by age demographics in the report, it appears that older individuals are more vulnerable to cybercrimes. The majority of reported victims were over 60, with 105,301 complaints and losses approaching $1 billion. For the most part, the number of victims trended downward the younger the age demographic.
Age Number of 2020 Complaints
Under 20 23,186
Over 60 105,301
New Pandemic-Related Scams
The turmoil and chaos caused by the pandemic provided criminals the opportunity to target businesses and individuals in new ways. The pandemic created specific conditions that enabled new types of fraud and scams to flourish:
· The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided economic programs to aid businesses, including loans and assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Criminals targeted these programs, making fraudulent claims for assistance.
· With the rise of unemployment claims and expanded benefits, unemployment fraud soared last year. Criminals made fraudulent unemployment claims using stolen identities and targeted individuals by impersonating government officials.
· Criminals contacted individuals through social media, email and phone impersonating government officials. Scams involved contact tracing, vaccinations, economic programs and more were reported.
How to Avoid Scams
The top scams reported to the FBI are phishing scams, non-payment/non-delivery scams and extortion. Check out our guide on helping protect yourself from these top three reported scams.