Billions of dollars lost in cyber scams

Sept. 6, 2019
by Mark Ollig

Internet fraud is investigated by the FBI’s IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center).

On average, 900 complaints are received each day by the IC3, regarding fraud perpetrated on business and individuals.

Those perpetrating internet fraud and online scams are lawbreakers, both foreign and domestic.

The IC3 provides the public with a reporting tool for submitting information to the FBI concerning suspected internet-supported criminal activity.

Since its start in May 2000, the IC3 has received nearly 4.5 million complaints about online cyber scams.

From 2014 to 2018, $7.45 billion in total victim losses due to online criminal activity and cyber scams have been reported.

The FBI’s Cyber Division recently released its 2018 Internet Crime Report.

“We hope this report provides additional information of value as we work together to protect our nation against cyber threats,” read the message at the beginning of the report.

The IC3 report states a total of 351,936 complaints were filed from businesses and individuals, with losses exceeding $2.7 billion during 2018.

These complaints included the following internet crimes: extortion, tech support fraud, payroll diversion, confidence/romance fraud, personal data breach, non-payment/non-delivery, and business email compromise.

Online confidence/romance fraud occurs over online dating websites, phone apps, and social media networks, such as Facebook. This type of fraud involves a perpetrator deceiving their victim into believing they are in a trusting relationship.

A perpetrator may try to convince their victim they are a US citizen living in a foreign country, or with the US military deployed overseas. Some will claim to be a US business owner, promising profitable investments.

Once these perpetrators gain their victim’s trust, they will attempt to deceive and influence their actions.

The victim is persuaded into sending money, offering personal financial information, or making purchases on behalf of the perpetrator.

More than 18,000 people were defrauded out of more than $362 million because of internet confidence/romance fraud. This type of fraud targets mostly the elderly, women, and those who have lost a spouse.

Sometimes, an online perpetrator will invest months building trust with their victims before asking for money, saying they need it for “an emergency.”

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports, during the last three years, US and Canadian victims of online romance were defrauded out of nearly $1 billion.

Be cautious when using a dating website or app; instead of discovering a loving relationship, you might find yourself ending up as an unsuspecting accomplice in a money-laundering scheme.

In February, the BBB reported 30 percent of online romance fraud victims were used to launder money; these victims are known as “money mules.”

“The Mule” is a 2018 movie in which Clint Eastwood plays the part of Earl Stone, an elderly man who unknowingly (at first) becomes a money mule for a drug cartel. In the end, being a money mule didn’t work out too well for Stone.

Be suspicious when an online acquaintance suggests sending you money; you could find yourself ending up becoming their cyber money mule.

The IC3 works with local, state, federal, and international agencies. It acts as a central hub for public awareness, and for taking complaints from the victims of internet crime.

It also provides law enforcement with remote access to its IC3 database through the FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal.

There were 14,408 complaints related to tech support fraud sent to the IC3. Victim losses in 2018 were almost $39 million. A majority of these tech support fraud victims were over the age of 60, which gave me pause for thought.

Criminal cyber investigations by the IC3 have resulted in indictments, arrests, convictions, and asset forfeitures from the perpetrators. Some victims have recovered part, or all of their monetary losses.

Visit the IC3 Tech Fraud Support page at https://bit.ly/2lT7hTK.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of an internet crime, file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov.

You can also file a report with the US Postal Inspection Service at https://bit.ly/2lWkE8X.

“How Some Romance Fraud Victims Become Money Mules,” a BBB report can be read at https://bit.ly/2ksa6hh.

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