Data Security Law Blog

FBI Reports An Increasing Rate Of Internet-Facilitated Crime

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, better known as IC3, released its 2018 Internet Crimes ReportFor those unfamiliar with the IC3, it was established by the FBI in May 2000 as a central repository for public complaints of internet-based crimes. Since its inception, IC3 has received more than 4 million complaints. To facilitate law enforcement efforts and promote public awareness, IC3 analyzes the complaints it receives and disseminates information to the public and law enforcement. Among other things, it identifies trending scams, refers scams that do not meet federal law enforcement thresholds to state and local law enforcement, and provides victim services. New in 2018, IC3 created the Recovery Asset Team to help victims of internet-facilitated schemes recover funds and the Victim Specialist-Internet Crime position to provide crisis intervention, needs assessments, and referrals.

The 2018 Internet Crimes Report is filled with statistics and reaches the sobering yet unsurprising conclusion that internet-based crime remains “pervasive.” Here are some of the key takeaways from the Report:

  • In 2018, the IC3 received more than 350,000 complaints, up from the five-year average of 300,000 complaints per year.
  • The total losses from reported complaints in 2018 exceeded $2.71 billion. It’s worth noting that “loss,” as reported by IC3, generally does not include lost business opportunities, wages, or the cost of third party remediation services.
  • Internet crimes based on nonpayment/non-delivery of goods or services, extortion and personal data breaches were the most prevalent of those reported.
  • The internet-based crimes that caused the highest financial loss were business email compromise (BEC) and email account compromises (EAC), which caused $1.2 billion in losses. BEC and EAC schemes are well-known and include scams targeting businesses and individuals by hacking or spoofing legitimate email accounts and sending fraudulent requests for wire payments or financial information.
  • Extortion is the fastest growing type of internet crime reported to IC3, with more than 50,000 extortion complaints in 2018, a 242% increase from 2017. Extortion schemes include ransomware, Denial of Services (“DoS”), and Distributed Denial of Service (“DDoS”) attacks. Reported losses attributable to these extortions exceeded $83 million.
  • California held the dubious distinction of being the state hardest hit by internet-based crime, with reported losses totaling $405 million — more than double of the runner-up (New York) with $201 million in losses. 
  • People age 50 and over appear most vulnerable to internet-based crimes. This age group included more than 100,000 victims who lost a total of nearly $1.1 billion. 
  • The Recovery Asset Team responded to 1,061 incidents with total losses exceeding $257 million. It recovered nearly $193 million, a 75% recovery rate.

In addition to the Report, the IC3 website is a valuable resource tool containing a list of current internet trends and schemes identified by the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and tips for preventing these crimes.

As reflected in the Report, internet-based crime continues to proliferate, evolve and increase in sophistication. Companies, home offices and individuals are encouraged to remain vigilant to avoid becoming one of the statistics in next year’s Report.