#Privacy: BEC scammers earned nearly $1.8 billion in 2019

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received a total of 467,371 complaints in 2019, an average of nearly 1,300 every day. 

According to the latest IC3’s 2019 Internet Crime Report, 2019 saw the highest number of complaints and the highest dollar losses reported since the center’s establishment in May 2000, – to which IC3 received 467,361 complaints with losses exceeding $3.5 billion. 

Phishing and similar ploys such as vishing, non-payment/non-delivery, extortion, and personal data breach, were the most prevalent crime types reported. 

Business email compromise (BEC), romance or confidence fraud, and spoofing were the top three crime types with the highest reported losses. 

BEC accounted for almost half of the reported losses, with over $1.7 billion losses in 2019, and 32,775  recorded complaints.

IC3 reported witnessing an increase in the number of BEC complaints related to the diversion of payroll funds in 2019: “In this type of scheme, a company’s human resources or payroll department receives an email appearing to be from an employee requesting to update their direct deposit information for the current pay period. The new direct deposit information generally routes to a pre-paid card account.”

Confidence or romance fraud was the second biggest crime type, with over $475 million recorded losses, followed by Spoofing with more than $300 million. 

“Criminals are getting so sophisticated,”said Donna Gregory, chief of IC3. “It is getting harder and harder for victims to spot the red flags and tell real from fake.”

Ransomware only received 2,057 complaints with adjusted losses of over $8.9 million. It should be noted that many victims do not report ransomware losses to the bureau despite encouraging them to do so. 

In regards to the number of reported victims, phishing came top with 114,702, followed by non-payment/non delivery (61,832), extortion (43,101) and personal data breach (38,218). There were 23,775 reported victims for BEC/EAC and 2,047 for ransomware. 

The report highlighted the growing problem of Tech Support Fraud, which involves a threat actor posing as customer support for well-known travel industry companies, virtual currency exchanges and financial institutions.

The IC3 received 13,633 complaints of Tech Support Fraud in 2019 from victims in 48 counties, with losses amounting to $54 million – representing a 40% in losses from 2018. 

“Information reported to the IC3 plays a vital role in the FBI’s ability to understand our cyber adversaries and their motives, which, in turn, helps us to impose risks and consequences on those who break our laws and threaten our national security,” said Matt Gorham, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division. “It is through these efforts we hope to build a safer and more secure cyber landscape.”


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