Internet scammers are raking in more cash than ever before…and cryptocurrencies provided them with a major assist.
According to the FBI’s recently released annual internet crime report(Opens in a new tab), $10.6 billion was lost due to online scams and frauds in 2022. This is up 46 percent from the $6.9 billion in losses in 2021. Furthermore, even though losses are way up, the number of complaints from scam victims made to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) were actually down from the previous year.
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So, what accounted for the more than $3.5 billion jump from 2021 to 2022? The rise of cryptocurrency.
The report found that investment fraud overall was the “costliest scheme.” Based on complaints to the IC3, losses from investment fraud grew from $1.45 billion in 2021 to $3.31 billion last year.
However, within those complaints, the report found that fraud involving cryptocurrency specifically had the biggest growth with an increase of 183 percent from the year prior. Losses from crypto scams went from $907 million in 2021 to a whopping $2.57 billion in 2022.
“Crypto-investment scams saw unprecedented increases in the number of victims and the dollar losses to these investors,” reads the report. “Many victims have assumed massive debt to cover losses from these fraudulent investments and the most targeted age group reporting this type of scam are victims ages 30 to 49.”
Some common crypto-related scams according to the report include crypto stolen through hacked social media accounts, celebrity impersonations, real estate fraud, and liquidity mining, which are schemes that persuade targets to connect their crypto wallets to an application with the promise to make profit and then instead just drain the user’s account of its funds.
Though crypto scammers often go after younger targets, according to the report, the largest pool of victims is in the less tech-savvy 60-and-older demographic. They accounted for $3.1 billion of the 2022 losses.
And while investment fraud accounted for the most losses, there were many other types of internet scams pulling its weight too. Call center fraud was the biggest threat to that previously mentioned older demographic, accounting for more than $1 billion in total losses. Of that, $724 million was drained specifically from targets aged 60 and older.
Business email compromise was another scam that proved fruitful for bad actors in 2022. This scam involves targeting users’ business emails and then attempting to use social engineering techniques to trick the victim into transferring funds. These scams accounted for $2.7 billion in losses last year. And, even though ransomware attacks were down in 2022, they still made up $34.3 million in losses.
It’s important to note that the data here comes from more than 800,000 complaints filed with the IC3 in 2022. The numbers are likely even higher as there are scam victims who don’t report.