Internet crime in 2021: Investment fraud losses soar

Business email compromise/email account compromise scams still have the highest financial toll on victims, but investment fraud has also lead to massive losses last year, FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report has revealed.

Tech support scammers have likewise been working furiously, and have managed to steal from hapless victims $200+ million more than the year before!

Key findings

The 2021 Internet Crime Report is based on information from 847,376 complaints about internet-enabled crimes the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received in 2021 from individuals and entities across the globe (though predominantly in the US).

The report shows that:

  • The number of complaints received in 2021 (847,376) has surpassed that of complaints in 2020 (791,790), and the total monetary loss suffered by victims ($6.9 Billion) has far outstripped losses suffered in 2020 ($4.2 Billion)
  • The top five cyber crimes reported by victims in 2021 were: phishing/vishing/smishing/pharming scams; non-payment/non-delivery scams, personal data breach, identity theft, and extortion
  • Victims lost the most money to BEC/EAC scams, investment fraud, romance and confidence schemes, personal data breach, and real estate/rental
  • Organizations in the healthcare sector are the preferred targets of ransomware gangs

2021 internet crime

“Modernized” scams

The IC3 has also detailed some newer variants of old-school schemes:

  • Newer BEC/EAC schemes that exploit this reliance on virtual meetings to instruct victims to send fraudulent wire transfers; the scammers’ use of “deep fake” audio; the quick transfer of fraudulent wire transfers to cryptocurrency wallets
  • Victims of romance scams being pressured into investment opportunities, especially using cryptocurrency
  • Scams related to cryptocurrency: e.g., scammers impersonating cryptocurrency exchange support or security employees
  • Tech support scammers are still impersonating well-known tech companies, but are also increasingly posing as customer support for financial and banking institutions, utility companies, etc. “Most victims, almost 60 percent, report to be over 60 years of age, and experience at least 68 percent of the losses (almost $238 million),” the IC3 shared

“The criminals have discovered how many people don’t understand investing in cryptocurrency and have turned investment scams into a new money factory,” commented Gary Warner, Director of Research in Computer Forensics at UAB’s Center for Cyber Security.

His most recent blog post offers many examples of investment scams, as well as a true victim story that tells how those victims can be victimized again by (different?) fraudsters.

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