South Carolina residents lost more than $30 million to cyber criminals in 2020, according to a news release from the office of acting U.S. attorney Rhett DeHart. That prompted DeHart’s office to remind Palmetto State residents to “remain vigilant of cyber crimes, so they do not fall victim.”
DeHart also praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – America’s lead law enforcement agency on this issue – for its ongoing work in combatting cyber crime.
“Cybercrimes can inflict lifelong damage to the victims,” DeHart said in a statement. “That is why the investigative work of the FBI and the prosecutorial efforts for cybercrime by our office will not end until such crimes come to a halt. Until that day comes, the public must remain vigilant, particularly during the pandemic, to avoid falling prey to the exploitative cybercriminals.”
The most common cyber crime involves hackers compromising business email networks or personal email accounts. Victims of those types of cyber intrusions lost $8.3 million in 2020, according to the FBI’s 2020 internet crime report. Another $4.4 million worth of losses came as a result of “romance scams.”
You know … “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
And these are just the “reported” losses … the true cost of cyber crime is likely much higher.
To view specific cyber crime data for the Palmetto State, click here.
Nationally, internet crime soared in 2020. According to the FBI, it received more than 791,000 complaints of “suspected internet crime” last year – an increase of more than 300,000 complaints from 2019. The total loss associated with these complaints? More than $4.2 billion.
“The top three crimes reported by victims in 2020 were phishing scams, non-payment/ non-delivery scams, and extortion,” the FBI noted in announcing its data. “Victims lost the most money to business email compromise scams, romance and confidence schemes, and investment fraud.”
Federal authorities also noted that “2020 saw the emergence of scams exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic,” with more than 28,500 reported complaints of coronavirus-related fleecing.
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“The pandemic has unfortunately emboldened cyber criminals to try to take advantage of many neighbors, including those working from home and staying home more often in general,” DeHart said. “Our office encourages South Carolinians and South Carolina businesses to protect themselves with video call security measures and additional ways to protect sensitive information.”
How should they do that?
By using strong passwords, multi-factor authentication for accounts, virtual private networks for their data and, well, common sense – you know, like discounting any email that involves a Nigerian prince or a particularly buxom new “Facebook friend.”
Individuals who believe they have been targeted or victimized by cyber criminals should visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) online at IC3.gov.
As more of our lives and livelihoods move online, expect cyber crime to continue to expand in the years to come …
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