In 2020, while the American public was focused on protecting our families from a global pandemic and helping others in need, cyber criminals took advantage of an opportunity to profit from our dependence on technology to go on an Internet crime spree. These criminals used phishing, spoofing, extortion, and various types of Internet-enabled fraud to target the most vulnerable in our society – medical workers searching for personal protective equipment, families looking for information about stimulus checks to help pay bills, and many others.
Crimes of this type are just a small part of what the FBI combats through our criminal and cyber investigative work. Key to our cyber mission is the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a trustworthy source for information on cyber criminal activity, and a way for the public to report directly to us when they suspect they are a victim of cyber crime.
IC3 received a record number of complaints from the American public in 2020: 791,790, with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. This represents a 69% increase in total complaints from 2019. Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) schemes continued to be the costliest: 19,369 complaints with an adjusted loss of approximately $1.8 billion. Phishing scams were also prominent: 241,342 complaints, with adjusted losses of over $54 million. The number of ransomware incidents also continues to rise, with 2,474 incidents reported in 2020.
Public reporting is central to the mission and success of IC3. Submitting a cyber crime complaint to IC3.gov not only helps the FBI address specific complaints—and provide support and assistance to victims —but also helps us prevent additional crimes by finding and holding criminal actors accountable. Information reported to the IC3 helps the FBI better understand the motives of cyber-criminals, the evolving threat posed, and tactics utilized, enabling us to most effectively work with partners to mitigate the damage to victims.
IC3 has continued to strengthen its relationships with industry and others in the law enforcement community to reduce financial losses resulting from BEC scams. Through the Recovery Asset Team, IC3 worked with its partners to successfully freeze approximately $380 million of the $462 million in reported losses in 2020, representing a success rate of nearly 82%. In addition, IC3 has a Recovery and Investigative Development Team which assists financial and law enforcement investigators in dismantling organizations that move and transfer funds obtained illicitly.
With our dedicated resources focused on recovering funds and preventing further victimization, we are better aligned to confront the unique challenges faced in cyberspace. Visit IC3.gov to access the latest information on criminal Internet activity.
We strongly encourage readers to submit complaints to IC3 and to reach out to their local FBI field office to report malicious cyber criminal activity. Together we will continue to build safety, security, and confidence into our digitally connected world.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Read the full report here: https://www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/AnnualReport/2020_IC3Report.pdf