The global pandemic has catapulted the usage of online transactions. These transactions range from basic communication to crucial financial transactions and data preservation. However, this supposedly safe space has become a mining field for scams worth billions of dollars.
The FBI had reported in 2020 that over $4.2 billion had been taken by cyber criminals and scammers. These scams worth billions is to the horror of individuals and institutions that reported and fell victim to such schemes.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Center (IC3), internet crime had increased by around 61%. This is in comparison to 2019’s 491,790 reported cases which had an estimated loss of $3.5 billion. This is but dismal compared to the 2020 loss of more than $4.2 billion.
In 2020, the year the pandemic had started, cybercriminals had massively taken advantage of the disruption and shift of focus of the general public. The FBI had a comprehensive report, known as the Internet Crime Report 2020, about such. This report included that amidst the pandemic and shifted priorities of the general American public, cyber criminals saw an opportunity. Cyber criminals took such a situation as an avenue to capitalize on the public’s growing dependence on technology.
The rise of cybercrimes
The sources of the largest chunks of the reported losses are business email compromise (BEC) and email account compromise (EAC). These scams worth billions had totaled to $1.8 billion from 19,369 reports. In 2019, on the other hand, a total loss of $1.77 billion was reported from 23,775 BEC reports. Comparing the stats of the two years, it is evident that the shift is quite significant.
Converting funds to cryptocurrency and stealing of identity have been noted as significant contributors regarding the rise in BEC reports. According to IC3, scammers usually use a stolen ID to open a bank account. This is done so that they could access the funds that they had stolen without revealing their identities. They would then convert these funds into cryptocurrency that is less traceable. To execute this, scammers may ask a victim to give an ID to a romance scammer or tech support scammer. Unaware of this, a huge number of people have fallen victim to these schemes.
Converting to cryptocurrency may not have been the same as before. In the past, scammers would take over an email address of an executive or other esteemed senior. They would later on use it to instruct a junior to process the stolen funds into the scammer’s bank account.
According to the FBI’s report, fraud when it comes to tech support is still a problem that has been growing. However, recently, there have also been certain complaints made by victims. These complaints state that cybercriminals also take on fake identities as customer support for companies in relevant sectors.
These losses had a massive 171% increase compared to that of 2019, for it had totaled to $146 million. A total of 15,421 reports from victims of 60 different countries were received by the IC3.