May 6, 2019 Herb 0Comment
Elder Fraud Photo Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reminds seniors that cruising the internet can be hazardous to your pocket book.  The statistics (gather complaints in 2018 – an average of more than 900 every day) by the FBI’s internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for 2018 reveal that internet-enabled theft, fraud, and exploitation remain prevalent and were responsible for a whopping $2.7 billion in financial losses in 2018.

The FBI’s annual internet crime report pulls together information from 351,936 filed complaints of suspected internet crime, with reported losses in excess of $2.7 billion. This year, the top three crime types reported by victims were nonpayment/non delivery, extortion and personal data breach.

In addition to the 2018 statistics, the report contains information about the IC3, the FBI’s work in combating internet crime, and the most prevalent scams. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromise, romance or confidence fraud, and investment scams, which include Ponzi and pyramid schemes.

According to the FBI, the filed reports came in from every U.S. state (8,440 New Jersey victims reported $79,711,752 in losses) and territory and involved victims of every age.  Over 110,700 of the internet victims were age 50 and over, who reported more than 1.14 million in loses.

Awareness Key to Combating Internet Scams

“The 2018 report shows how prevalent these crimes are,” said Donna Gregory, chief of the IC3, in an April 22 statement announcing the release of the new report. “It also shows that the financial toll is substantial and a victim can be anyone who uses a connected device. Awareness is one powerful tool in efforts to combat and prevent these crimes. Reporting is another. The more information that comes into the IC3, the better law enforcement is able to respond,” said Gregory.

The FBI says that positive actions coming out of the IC3 include the establishment in February 2018 of the Recovery Asset Team and its successes in recovering funds lost in business email compromise scams. These sophisticated scams involve perpetrators infiltrating businesses’ email accounts and requesting fraudulent wire transfers or gift card purchases.

The Recovery Asset Team also has helped streamline communication with financial institutions and assist FBI field offices in the recovery of funds for businesses that report a fraudulent domestic transfer. The team was able to successfully recover more than $192 million in funds—a recovery rate of 75 percent, says the FBI.

To improve the chances of a successful recovery, the FBI says it is crucial that victims contact their bank immediately upon discovering a fraudulent transaction as well as report the crime to the IC3.

The large number of complaints captured by the IC3 in 2018 also helped improve the data available to all law enforcement agencies as they search for connections among cases and look for trends and patterns in crimes and victims.

In 2018, the IC3 also worked with the FBI’s Victim Services Division to add staff to help better serve the victims of cyber-enabled crime. The victim specialist-internet crimes position helps provide crisis intervention services, assess victim needs, and refer victims to additional resources.

Tips to Follow to Avoid Becoming a Victim

The IC3 website provides a list of common and current scams as well as tips on how to avoid being a victim of an Internet-enabled crime. The FBI notes that the most important prevention tips include keeping hardware and software updated and protected by anti-virus programs and strong passwords. The other steps include learning how to recognize suspicious messages and requests and researching and verifying the legitimacy of every offer, person, message or opportunity encountered online.

The IC3 was created in 2000 to provide the public with a reliable and convenient reporting mechanism to submit information to the FBI concerning suspected Internet-facilitated criminal activity and to develop effective alliances with industry partners.  Report suspected criminal internet activity at www.ic3.gov.

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