The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has released its 2020 Internet Crime Report which found that 2020 was a record year for both victims of internet crime and dollar losses in the United States. 791,790 complaints were logged by IC3 in the last calendar year with total losses amounting to $4.2 billion. The most frequent internet crimes recorded in 2020 were phishing, non-payment/non-delivery scams and extortion. Business Email Compromise schemes were the costliest internet crimes last year with adjusted losses of $1.8 billion.
2020 was notable for the emergence of schemes exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic with both individuals and businesses targeted. Some 28,500 complaints were received relating to Covid-19 scams with most of them aimed at the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). They mainly involved grant fraud, loan fraud, and phishing for Personally Identifiable Information. In many cases, victims did not realise they had been targeted until they attempted to file their own legitimate claims for unemployment insurance benefits.
Another growing problem throughout the pandemic has been criminals impersonating government representatives over the phone, via email and through social media. Through charades and threats, they managed to gain both money and personal information. Scams have also emerged as the pace of vaccinations accelerated where people have been asked to pay for jabs out of pocket or to provide personal information in exchange for appointments.