Internet crimes increased by 69% in 2020, according to an annual report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI’s Internet Crime Center received 791,790 complaints in 2020, a 300,00 call increase from 2019. Reported financial losses due to the increase were in excess of $4.2 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2019.
The FBI attributes the increase to the COVID-19 pandemic, both because people have become increasingly reliant on technology and because COVID-19 itself presents a scam opportunity.
“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,” the report reads. Nearly 30% of the complaints — 28,500 — were related to COVID-19.
Last year, roughly 2,300 Alaskans filed complaints of suspected internet crimes, reporting losses of more than $6 million. The most common scams in Alaska were intellectual property fraud and copyright and counterfeit, extortion, and non-payment/non-delivery scams. Although they are the most frequent, those scams are not the most lucrative; Alaskans lost the most money on email compromise scams, romance scams and tech support scams.
Both in Alaska and nationwide, internet crimes disproportionately impact older adults, according to the report. In Alaska, more than 30% of victims reported their age as older than 60. This age group accounted for slightly more than 40% of losses.
Recently, Alaskans in Fairbanks and across the state have been receiving scam calls from individuals impersonating representatives from the U.S. Marshals office. Callers tell individuals they have missed federal jury duty and ask for money or personal information in exchange for dropping the warrant.
In light of these scams, the FBI recommends that individuals use caution when answering calls from unknown numbers and to never give out personal information or send money to anyone one does not personally know and trust. Moreover, a legitimate law enforcement officer would not ask for payment over the phone.
The FBI asks that individuals immediately report suspected criminal internet activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.