According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), business email compromise (BEC) is no longer the most prevalent type of online crime. The agency describes investment fraud as a “rising star” in cybercrime that is causing the most financial losses.
The freshest edition of the FBI’s annual Internet Crime Report, established in May 2000 and considered one of the most important of its kind by the cybersecurity community, claims that at $2.7 billion in losses for 2022, BEC has lost the top spot to investment fraud ($3.3 billion).
What’s interesting is that BEC and investment fraud, incidents of which more than doubled year on year, accounted for more than half the losses reported in 2022. They both are also the only crime types that had losses in the billions.
Everything else – tech support fraud, personal and business data breaches, identity theft, and credit card fraud – was in the millions. Victims of phishing, for example, reported a total $52 million in losses, with more than 300,000 people targeted in such attacks.
Investment fraud is something the FBI and Interpol have been warning about for months. In November 2022, Interpol arrested nearly a thousand suspects on suspicion of BEC and investment fraud, with around $130 million in assets seized.
Cybercriminals usually impersonate the investment sites of many high-profile brands and manage to attract more naive investors with supposedly good opportunities to make money.
Of course, they then disappear with the cash, which is often impossible to trace as the investments are made in cryptocurrency. This enables scammers to conceal their identities.
The FBI also says users should be aware of less traditional forms of investment scams, where social media accounts are hacked to perpetrate a fake investment opportunity, targeting friends of the hacked user.
Celebrities or rich real-estate buyers are also impersonated, to fool people into investing money. In cases of employment fraud, “victims apply for fake positions online at an investment firm or company supposedly affiliated with investing. Instead of a job, the victims are offered investment advice [that] is fraudulent and designed to retrieve as much money from the target as possible.”
According to the Bureau, the most targeted age group reporting investment fraud scams are aged 30-49. The threat is growing: “investment fraud complaints alone increased from $1.45 billion in 2021 to $3.31 billion in 2022, which is a 127% jump,” the FBI said.
The report is compiled each year by aggregating complaints filed through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a website where Americans can report an online crime.
Incidents filed through the IC3 reached more than 800,000 last year, but the FBI added: “Not everyone who has experienced a ransomware incident has reported to the IC3.”
The IC3 complaints represented a 5% decrease from 2021, when 847,376 complaints were filed. However, the potential total loss grew over the same period from $6.9 billion to more than $10.2 billion. Over the last five years, the IC3 has received an average of 652,000 complaints per yeaMoney los
“The FBI remains appreciative of those individuals and entities who report cyber incidents to the IC3, as that valuable information helps fill in gaps that are crucial to advancing our investigations,” said FBI spokesman Timothy Langan.
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