ANCHORAGE, AK—The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has released its annual report, which includes information from 791,790 complaints of suspected Internet crime—an increase of more than 300,000 complaints from 2019—and reported losses exceeding $4.2 billion. Notably, 2020 saw the emergence of scams exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic. The IC3 received over 28,500 complaints related to COVID-19, with fraudsters targeting both businesses and individuals.
The accompanying state report for Alaska showed nearly 2,300 victims in Alaska filed complaints of suspected Internet crime to IC3, and reported losses exceeding $6 million, which disproportionately affected Alaska’s senior population. In Alaska, the top three crimes reported by victims were IPR/copyright and counterfeit, extortion, and non-payment/non-delivery scams; however, victims lost the most money to business email compromise scams, romance scams, and tech support scams. These scams are described as:
- IPR / Copyright and Counterfeit: Fraud involving the theft of trade secrets and counterfeit goods that threaten public health and safety.
- Extortion: Unlawful extraction of money or property through intimidation or undue exercise of authority. It may include threats of physical harm, criminal prosecution, or public exposure.
- Non-Payment / Non-Delivery: In non-payment situations, goods and services are shipped, but payment is never rendered. In non-delivery situations, payment is sent, but goods and services are never received.
- Business Email Compromise / e-mail Account Compromise: BEC is a scam targeting businesses (not individuals) working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses regularly performing wire transfer payments. EAC is a similar scam that targets individuals. These sophisticated scams are carried out by fraudsters compromising email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques to conduct unauthorized transfer of funds.
- Romance Scams: Most often through social media or dating sites, a victim believes they are in a relationship (family, friendly, or romantic) and are tricked into sending money, personal, and financial information, or items of value to the perpetrator or to launder money or items to assist the perpetrator.
- Tech Support Scams: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information.
To protect yourself from falling victim to common fraud schemes, be wary of answering phone calls from numbers you do not recognize. Do not send money or gift cards to anybody that you do not personally know and trust. Never give out your personally identifiable information over the phone or to individuals you do not know.
In some schemes, like government impersonation scams, criminals pose as government employees calling from a spoofed number and will threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds, gift cards, or obtain personal identifiable information. These calls are fraudulent; no legitimate law enforcement officer will make unsolicited calls demanding payment, gift cards, or personally identifiable information from a member of the public.
The FBI wants to remind the public to immediately report suspected criminal Internet activity to the IC3 at ic3.gov. By reporting Internet crime, victims are not only alerting law enforcement to the activity, but also aiding in the overall fight against cyber crime.