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Hot Off The Press: The 2019 FBI Internet Crime Report

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Recently-released FBI statistics provide a sobering reminder
that businesses and individuals should continue to make
cybersecurity a top priority in 2020. According to the FBI’s
2019 Internet Crime Report, internet crime
complaints are at an all-time high. In addition, the magnitude of
resulting losses is also reaching new heights. In particular,
business e-mail compromises (BEC) and e-mail account compromises
(EAC) scams top the charts.

During 2019, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
(IC3) received a total of 467,361 complaints and recorded more than
$3.5 billion in losses to businesses and individuals. These figures
represent the highest number of complaints and greatest losses
recorded in the last five years.

BEC and EAC scams resulted in 23,775 complaints and $1.7 billion
in losses last year, thereby accounting for the highest amount of
losses resulting from any form of internet fraud during 2019. These
types of crimes occur when an attacker gains access to business
e-mail accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion
techniques and conducts unauthorized transfers of funds. Last year,
the FBI observed an increase in the number of BEC and EAC
complaints arising from the diversion of payroll funds.

Moreover, “phishing,” “vishing,”
“smishing,” and “pharming” constituted the
most prevalent type of fraud reported during 2019. These crimes
occur when an attacker, masquerading as a legitimate company,
requests personal information, financial information, or login
credentials from a subject via e-mail, text messages, or telephone.
Last year, 114,702 businesses and individuals fell victim to this
type of crime and experienced losses of almost $60 million.

Other prevalent crimes reported during 2019 included
non-payment/non-delivery, extortion, and personal data breach
incidents. The crimes that resulted in the highest reported losses,
other than BEC incidents, were confidence/romance fraud and
spoofing.

The FBI has warned that scammers are becoming more sophisticated
and that internet-based fraudulent schemes are continuing to
evolve. That said, the battle against computer crime is not
completely hopeless, as evidenced by a few notable law enforcement
“wins.” In North Carolina, a man plead guilty to
conspiracy to access a protected computer for his role in an
international tech support scam that defrauded hundreds of victims,
including seniors, of more than $3 million. This scheme also
highlights the fact that malicious actors often target persons over
60 years of age. The report reveals that persons over 60 suffered
losses of over $835,164,766, the largest amount of any age
demographic.

These losses suggest that malicious actors target older persons
who are not as familiar with their tactics as younger, more
computer-savvy persons. Businesses where personal information and
vital business information is under the stewardship of older
employees should be extra-vigilant against potential cybersecurity
threats.

Still, when the malicious actors are not based in the United
States, which is often the case, it is extremely difficult to bring
the perpetrators to justice. As the FBI’s report demonstrates,
the importance of continuing to focus upon cybersecurity cannot be
diminished. The stakes are simply too high.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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