FBI Steps Up Victim Support as Internet Crime Soars

Internet crime now costing Americans $2.7 billion a year: Internet Scambusters #859

Every day, almost a thousand Americans complain to the FBI that they’ve fallen victim to Internet crime.

Scams and other fraudulent activity are costing the public about $2.7 billion every year, according to the FBI’s associated agency, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

This week we offer some highlights from the agency’s annual report along with valuable tips for dealing with one of the fastest growing scams targeting firms and their employees.

Let’s get started…


FBI Steps Up Victim Support as Internet Crime Soars


The FBI has launched a new initiative to help and support victims of Internet crime, with timely intervention and guidance, especially for victims in distress.

Online crime is costing Americans at least $2.7 billion a year, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

As we always say, the true figure is likely significantly higher because of unreported crime or scam reports handled by other organizations.

IC3 has launched its new program to improve help for victims by setting up a team of Victim Specialists of Internet Crime (VSIC).

When you fall victim to a scam, whether you realize it or not, a VSIC specialist may contact you to warn and assess how best to help, especially in times of critical need. Victims are then referred to the most helpful people or resources matched to the crime.

Oftentimes, victims of crimes like cyberbullying, ID theft and other scams haven’t been getting the support they need because of the way crime reports are handled and filtered. They get stuck with local law enforcement and never reach the level of a federal investigation.

However, the FBI is also supposed to be a first line of defense against these scams, which is where the VSICs step in.

“This new position is designed to ensure timely support and services are provided to victims to prevent further victimization and to engage the recovery process as quickly as possible…” IC3 explains in its report.

Benefit

“The benefit from VSICs positioned at IC3 is that they are able to quickly reach out and call these victims to intervene and offer assistance. Many victims do not believe they have been compromised and genuinely want to help the perpetrator.

“Skilled VSICs can help navigate those feelings for the victim, allow them to come to terms with what has happened, and provide them the resources and steps necessary to get their life back together.”

The three victim support specialists will work with local FBI counterparts in the field.

Published just a few weeks ago, IC3’s annual report for 2018 lists non-payment for items people have sold or non-delivery of items that victims have purchased as the main scams out of more than 350,000 complaints.

That may be no surprise, but the appearance of extortion in the number 2 slot has raised a few eyebrows.

But extortion is a catch-all term for many kinds of scams that involve demands for money, from grandparent scams, through threats alleging unpaid fines or taxes, to fake kidnap and ransom demands.

Number 3 in the rankings were crimes related to personal data breaches.

Other trending scams include business email compromises (BECs), in which crooks trick firms into diverting cash to them or paying fraudulent invoices.

In a related scam, payrolls are also increasingly being targeted by the tricksters. They use phishing and hacking to gain access to employees’ online accounts, or they fake email messages from the company’s CEO, which they send to HR employees.

Either way, the aim is to alter payment instructions to divert direct deposit paychecks to the crooks’ own bank accounts.

No Payment Changes

In response, IC3 has warned firms and employees never to make any payment changes without verifying the change with the intended recipient.

If you do fall victim, you should contact the originating financial institution and ask for a recall of the money, as well as a Hold Harmless Letter of Indemnity. Also, file a detailed complaint with IC3.

Another fast-rising crime identified in the report is phony tech support (where victims are tricked into letting scammers have access to their PCs).

Despite the frequent warnings from consumer groups, people continue to fall for the scam, which either extorts money or allows the crooks to steal confidential financial information stored on their computers.

On the brighter side, IC3 says the Recovery Asset Team (RAT) they set up in February 2018 played a key role in winning back money for more than 1,000 incidents involving losses of more than $257 million.

Complaints

IC3 was established in the year 2000. It has handled almost 4.5 million complaints since then. More than a third of those, costing around $7.5 billion have occurred in just the past four years.

In 2013, the agency stepped up its liaison with local law enforcement agencies through a program known as Operation Wellspring, which includes the establishment of Cyber Task Forces across the US.

Download the full report.

Regularly monitoring or setting up alerts from IC3 will keep you up to date with latest Public Service Announcements on Internet crime and fraud schemes targeting specific potential victims.

Alert of the Week

Don’t believe the text that appears to come from a local hospital saying you owe them money or, even worse, someone you know has been admitted after an accident.

Spoof SMS text messages of this type have been showing up in various parts of the country. If you get one and you’re in any way concerned, look up the hospital phone number and contact them directly.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.