FBI details top internet scams

The FBI released a report this week citing Internet crime complaints with losses exceeding $1.4 billion.

Of the more than 300,000 complaints received by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the top three crime types reported by victims in 2017 were non-payment/non-delivery, personal data breach and phishing.

The entire 2017 Internet Crime Report.can be found here.


Top scams 

There are several scams listed by the FBI, but here are some of the more egregious ones.

Email compromise

This scam targets businesses that regularly do wire transfer payments.

The scammers target legitimate business email accounts “through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques to conduct unauthorized transfers of funds,” the FBI said in the report.

One type of high-profile scam involves successfully hacking or spoofing – i.e., assuming the identity of another person – the email account of a company executive. Then fraudulent emails are sent requesting wire payments to fake locations.

In 2017, the FBI received 15,690 email compromise complaints with adjusted losses of over $675 million.


Ransomware is particularly insidious because it targets both “human and technical weaknesses,” the report said.

In one scenario highlighted, spear phishing emails – which pretend to be from a known or trusted sender – trick organizations into clicking on malicious links, ultimately leading to the encryption or lock down of sensitive files. When the victims discover they can’t access their data, the cybercriminal demands a ransom payment.

“The FBI does not support paying a ransom…Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after having paid a ransom,” the governemnt agency said in the report.

In 2017, the FBI received 1,783 complaints identified as ransomware with adjusted losses of over $2.3 million.


Tech support fraud

In this largely familiar scam, criminals claim to provide technical support in order to gain access to a victim’s computer.

“There are many variations of this scam, and criminals are constantly changing their tactics to continue the fraud,” the FBI said in the report. Criminals now use phishing emails or fraudulent account charges to lure their victims, the FBI added.

Some of the more recent complaints are about criminals posing as technical support representatives for income tax assistance, GPS, printer, cable companies, and support for virtual currency exchanges. The “fake refund” variation of tech support fraud is also increasing in reports and losses, the FBI said. The upshot is victims end up with compromised bank accounts or credit cards and often lose large sums of money.

In 2017, the FBI received 10,949 complaints related to tech support fraud. The claimed losses amounted to nearly $15 million.

The states with the largest tallies of victims are California with 41,974, Florida with 21,887, and Texas with 21,852 victims.

Complaints can be filed here with the FBI.