Online scams take various forms. While many potential victims chalk up the promises of vast wealth as bogus, others fall victim and end up losing significant amounts of money. In 2020 alone, US citizens reported nearly 800,000 online scams that resulted in financial losses to the tune of $4.1 billion.
Skyrocketing scam statistics
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center was launched in 2000. After seven years, they notched one million complaints. By early March last year, the number ballooned to five million. May 15th of this year saw an alarming milestone. What once took several years to reach the million-dollar mark occurred in 14 months when the bureau saw six million complaints.
It was the highest number of internet crimes reported since 2019. Bilking the American public was good business for bad people, costing their victims the following:
- Business email compromises – $1.87 billion
- Romance/confidence schemes – $0.6 billion
- Investment fraud – $0.3 billion
The sheer number of victims broke down into the following categories:
- Phishing scams – 241,342
- Non-payment/non-delivery scams – 108,869
- Extortion – 76,741
- Personal data breaches – 45,330
- Identity theft – 43,330
When not trying to trick executives and their underlings via email to send money from business accounts, scammers were also tugging at the heartstrings of the lovelorn, desperate, or gullible. The so-called online romantic partners would gain trust and subsequently demand money via blackmail for certain acts depicted on video or offer the “investment of a lifetime.”
Cryptocurrency gained a foothold with fraudsters as well, with the FTC reporting approximately 7,000 victims with financial losses exceeding $80 million. While the elderly are often targeted, this type of fraud focuses on more tech-savvy younger people in their 20s and 30s.
Fraud victims do not exist in a specific dynamic. Age, ethnicity, and other factors are of no interest to criminals who can’t be seen. Being proactively suspicious can make a significant difference between identifying a scam or becoming the victim of one.