Tue, 25 Jun 2019

FBI received more than 350,000 online scam complaints last year

By Jay Jackson, Alaska State News
23 Apr 2019, 14:25 GMT+10

WASHINGTON DC - Internet scams are as widespread as ever, and despite ever-increasing awareness of them and warnings by law enforcement agencies, they are increasing at an alarming rate.

In the U.S. alone last year hundreds of thousands of victims collectively were cheated out of $2.7 billion, nearly double the 2017 figure of $1.4 billion.

In its annual Internet Crime Report, the FBI reports its Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3 received 351,936 complaints in 2018—an average of more than 900 a day. The most frequently reported complaints were for non-payment/non-delivery scams, extortion, and personal data breaches. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromiseromance or confidence fraud, and investment scams, which can include Ponzi and pyramid schemes.

The report included complaints from every U.S. state and territory and involved victims of all ages. There was a concentration of victims and financial losses, however, among individuals over the age of 50.

"The 2018 report shows how prevalent these crimes are," Donna Gregory, chief of the IC3 said Monday. "It also shows that the financial toll is substantial and a victim can be anyone who uses a connected device. Awareness is one powerful tool in efforts to combat and prevent these crimes. Reporting is another. The more information that comes into the IC3, the better law enforcement is able to respond."

One bright spot is the Recovery Asset Team, established in February last year, which has already gained success in recovering funds lost in business email compromise scams. These sophisticated scams involve people infiltrating businesses’ email accounts and requesting fraudulent wire transfers or gift card purchases.

The Recovery Asset Team, the FBI says, has helped streamline communication with financial institutions and assist FBI field offices in the recovery of funds for businesses that report a fraudulent domestic transfer. The team was able to successfully recover more than $192 million in funds, a recovery rate of 75 percent.

One recovery success came in Colorado, where a victim wired $56,179.27 for a home purchase to a thief after receiving a spoofed email request from the lending agent. The Recovery Asset Team worked with the Denver Field Office and the victim’s bank to freeze the funds transfer and return $54,000 of the stolen money.

To improve the chances of a successful recovery, it is imperative victims contact their bank immediately they become aware a transaction is suspect and report the matter to the IC3.

The FBI says IC3 website provides a list of common and current scams as well as tips on how to avoid being a victim of an Internet-enabled crime. The most important prevention tips include keeping hardware and software updated and protected by anti-virus programs and strong passwords. The other steps include learning how to recognize suspicious messages and requests and researching and verifying the legitimacy of every offer, person, message, or opportunity yopu come across online.

The IC3 was established in 2000.


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