The United States government has put the losses incurred by victims of cybercrimes in the country in 2019 at more than $3.5 billion.
The U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in a statement on Tuesday that “Internet-enabled crimes and scams show no signs of letting up” despite the establishment of Internet Crime Complaint Center in May 2000.
The centre is managed by the FBI.
According to the statement, a report issued by the centre said the highest number of complaints and losses in cybercrimes in the U.S. was recorded in 2019 since the centre was established.
“IC3 received 467,361 complaints in 2019—an average of nearly 1,300 every day—and recorded more than $3.5 billion in losses to individual and business victims.
“The most frequently reported complaints were phishing and similar ploys, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion.
“The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromise, romance or confidence fraud, and spoofing, or mimicking the account of a person or vendor known to the victim to gather personal or financial information,” FBI said.
The statement quoted the head of the centre, Donna Gregory, as saying that criminals deployed new tactics and techniques in 2019 to carry out existing scams.
“Criminals are getting so sophisticated. It is getting harder and harder for victims to spot the red flags and tell real from fake,” Ms Gregory said.
The statement said fraudsters are beginning to use text messages and fake websites for scams, other than email which is “still the most common entry point”.
“You may get a text message that appears to be your bank asking you to verify information on your account,” said Ms Gregory. “Or you may even search a service online and inadvertently end up on a fraudulent site that gathers your bank or credit card information.”
Ms Gregory said individuals need to be extremely skeptical and double-check everything.
“In the same way your bank and online accounts have started to require two-factor authentication—apply that to your life,” she said. “Verify requests in person or by phone, double-check web and email addresses, and don’t follow the links provided in any messages.”
“The lies romance scammers tell.”
Another agency of the U.S. government saddled with the responsibility of protecting consumers, the Federal Trade Commission, is sensitising the American public on how not to fall victim to romance scams which is also reported to be on the increase in the U.S.
The commission said on its website that people reportedly lost $201 million to romance scams in 2019.
“Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps, or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts.
“The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money,” it said.
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The commission said scammers would often say they are living or travelling outside of the United States.
“We’ve heard about scammers who say they are: working on an oil rig, in the military, a doctor with an international organisation.
“We’ve heard about romance scammers asking their targets for money to: pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses, pay for surgery or other medical expenses, pay customs fees to retrieve something, pay off gambling debts, (and) pay for a visa or other official travel documents.”
The commission advised that people involved in Internet communication should stop immediately if they suspect a romance scam.
“Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
“Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for ‘oil rig scammer’ or ‘US Army scammer.’
“Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.”