Cybercrime and fraud cost Americans an estimated $4.2 billion in 2020, according to a report issued by the FBI.
The findings were released in the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) annual Internet Crime Report.
“IC3 received a record number of complaints from the American public in 2020: 791,790 with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion,” wrote FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate in the report’s introduction. “This represents a 69% increase in total complaints from 2019.”
Among the report’s findings was a massive increase in “-ishing” attacks, including phishing, vishing, smishing, and pharming, with 241,342 complaints filed in 2020, more than double the figure from 2019. Identity theft cases also spiked to 43,330 reported incidents, up from 16,053 the previous year.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 was a major target for scammers, with several thousand reported cases of financial crimes involving stimulus funds, unemployment insurance, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, and other pandemic-related fraud.
“One of the most prevalent schemes seen during the pandemic has been government impersonators. Criminals are reaching out to people through social media, emails, or phone calls pretending to be from the government,” warned the report.
The IC3 encourages people to protect themselves from online scams and to take the following precautions:
- Be extremely cautious when providing any personal or sensitive information while communicating online.
- Verify the senders of emails before downloading attachments or responding with requested information.
- Be skeptical of “too good to be true” offers including investment opportunities or medical advice.
- Immediately report any online crimes or scams to the IC3 or other authorities.