The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports the American public submitted 791,790 complaints in 2020, marking a 69% increase from 2019. Total losses from cybercrime exceeded $4.1 billion.
Business email compromise (BEC) scams were the most expensive, with 19,369 complaints and adjusted losses of approximately $1.8 billion. Phishing scams were also rampant, with 241,342 complaints – a big jump from 114,702 in 2019 – and adjusted losses of more than $54 million. Ransomware complaints continued to increase, with 2,474 incidents reported last year.
Officials report BEC scams have evolved since 2013, when these attacks typically spoofed email accounts of chief executive officers or chief financial officers and requested wire payments. The scams have since evolved to compromise personal emails and vendor emails. In 2020, the IC3 saw more BEC complaints detail identity theft and funds being converted into cryptocurrency.
In the latest BEC attacks, a victim is targeted with a different type of scam: extortion, tech support, or romance scams, among others. The victim provides an attacker with a form of identification, which is then used to create a bank account and receive stolen BEC funds that are later transferred into a cryptocurrency account.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a hot topic for fraudsters. Thousands of complaints were related to financial crime targeting the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) stimulus funds, specifically unemployment insurance, Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans, and Small Business Economic Injury Disaster Loans, as well as other forms of COVID-19 fraud.