Why Your Name is on the Cybercrime Hit List

Everyone’s at risk from cybercrime crooks: Internet Scambusters #610

As the global cybercrime bill climbs to $600 billion a year, who is most at risk from online fraud and what are the biggest dangers?

According to newly published reports, everyone is at risk and identity theft remains the number one crime.

We have the details on these reports along with the latest scam warnings, including a new Facebook phishing trick.

Let’s get started…

Why Your Name is on the Cybercrime Hit List

Around 40 million Americans are now falling victim to identity theft every year and the total global annual cost of cybercrime could now be as high as almost $600 billion – yes, “billion.”

These are just a couple of the shock statistics from security firm McAfee in a recent report on worldwide cybercrime.

And, just for the record, $600 billion is more than the value of the economies of most countries in the world — and the total number of ID records stolen worldwide could be around 800 million a year!

Cybercrime doesn’t just cost us money; it depresses economies and costs jobs. For example, the McAfee report says the U.S. alone is 200,000 jobs down on where it might be because of the effects of this crime.

And things are predicted to get worse.

“The cost of cybercrime will continue to increase as more business functions move online and as more companies and consumers around the world connect to the Internet,” says McAfee.

The report is mainly aimed at businesses, most of which, McAfee suggests, don’t realize just how big the threat is. But it also sounds an alert for all of us, showing that anyone and everyone will most likely be targeted within the span of just a few years.

3 Million Complaints

As proof of that, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported a few weeks ago that it had received its three millionth cybercrime report since it was established in May 2000.

IC3, which we featured in an earlier issue, Where and How to File Your Internet Scam Complaint, is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, with the support of a number of other agencies including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Most recently, the name of the organization itself was used in a scam that is still going around.

An email, pretending to be from a law firm, claims that the recipient is entitled to money from a $480 million compensation fund supposedly set up by IC3.

The message is convincing, including phony case and file numbers and compensation amounts.

The scam is either a phishing attempt to get bank account details or an advance fee scam in which victims are asked to pay a fee upfront to receive their compensation — both among the most common types of cybercrime.

Fraudulent online sales are another frequent scam. Incidents reported to IC3 this year include the sale of synthetic “human” hair masquerading as the real thing.

“The demand for long hair, new hair styles, or hair to conceal a medical condition associated with hair loss is nothing new,” says IC3. “However, it does appear the exploitation of human hair is on the rise.”

Based on analysis of recent targets, it adds, there seems to be a fairly consistent overlap in the sale of supposedly human hair on websites that also sell fake apparel.

IC3 identified more than 130 Internet domain names associated with these counterfeit sales from just one organization in China.

Last year alone, the verifiable amount of money lost by consumers in scams reported to IC3 was over $800 million.

But that, of course, is likely just the tip of an iceberg, reflecting only those crimes reported to them.

Americans Lose $1.6 Billion

So, for example, the FTC says in its recent annual report that it received two million complaints in 2013 alone and that American consumers lost over $1.6 billion to fraud.

As we have consistently reported in the Scambusters annual Top 10, identity theft remains the most common scam.

Within that category, the most frequent type of identity theft was related to phony tax claims and wages. And young adults, age 20 to 29, were the biggest single age category of ID theft victims.

But “Americans of all ages are vulnerable to identity theft, and it remains the most common consumer complaint to the Commission,” says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“We urge consumers to visit FTC.gov/idtheft for tips to prevent and mitigate the damage from identity theft.”

Readers can also visit the Scambusters Identity Theft Information Center for more useful resources.

Other major scam categories highlighted in the report included bogus debt collection, lotteries and, of course, advance payments.

None of the statistics in the reports featured this week makes for encouraging reading.

As McAfee says, cybercrime is relatively easy to commit, while tracking down the crooks, who operate globally, is tougher than ever.

In fact, in the IC3 compensation scam mentioned earlier, law enforcement organizations know exactly who is behind it but the alleged mastermind is out of reach in Russia.

So, the message for all of us is that since we can’t avoid being targeted by cybercrime we must redouble our own efforts to identify and resist it.

Alert of the Week: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re about to get a free $100 Amazon gift card, thanks to an offer that’s just popped up on your Facebook page.

This “offer” has nothing to do with Amazon. By clicking on the link or sharing it with your friends, you won’t get the gift card but you’ll be spreading a scam that phishes for personal info or plants malware on your — and their — PCs.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!