FBI Releases Annual Internet Crime Report for 2016

This month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released its 2016 Internet Crime Report, which compiles statistics regarding internet facilitated crime on an annual basis, and provides the public with updates on the latest internet scams.

According to Scott S. Smith, Assistant Director of the Cyber Division of the FBI, the IC3 was established in May 2000 to, “provide the public with a trustworthy and convenient reporting mechanism to submit information concerning suspected Internet-facilitated criminal activity,” and since its inception, over 3,762,348 complaints have been reported.  In the last five years, an average of 280,000 complaints were made per year, and total losses for the past five years equate to more than 4.63 billion dollars.

The IC3 report for 2016* indicates that it was the worst year yet in terms of internet-facilitated crime; more than 1.33 billion dollars was reported lost by the 298,728 people who submitted a report.  That equals an average loss of $4452.21 per person who reported a crime, and an average of over 815 complaints submitted per day.  Though the report flags a few success stories of criminal prosecution as a result of reports submitted to IC3, it is overwhelmingly focused on providing a number of statistics regarding internet-facilitated crimes reported, including age breakdown of victims, geographic breakdown of victims, monetary loss by state, etc.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the report is its highlighting of the latest scams and “Hot Topics” in internet facilitated crime for 2016.  These scams include:

  • Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC), wherein email and/or computer intrusion is conducted against either a business or an individual to facilitate unauthorized transfers of funds;
  • Ransomware scams, wherein some/all of a computer’s contents are held “hostage” and encrypted by malware until a virtual payment is made, upon which time the contents are theoretically released;
  • Tech Support Fraud, wherein a malicious actor pretends to be a representative from a legitimate tech support company in order to gain access to a victim’s computer, sensitive information, etc;
  • Extortion, which relies on the threat of exposure or harm unless a good, service, or compensation of some kind is provided

Interestingly enough, though Non-Payment/Non-Delivery, Personal Data Breach, and 419/Overpayment were the three most common types of cybercrime reported to the IC3 in 2016, BEC/EAC, Confidence Fraud/Romance, and Non-Payment/Non-Delivery accounted for the top three types of cybercrime in terms of losses caused, accounting for more than $718,550,003 in losses, or about 54% of the total 1.33 billion dollars in losses reported.

Unfortunately, the 2016 IC3 report clearly demonstrates that internet-facilitated crime is on the rise and more profitable than ever.  As technology plays an ever larger role in how we communicate, purchase, entertain, and interact, we will have to continue to grapple with the challenge of preventing crime in the cyber domain, for the sake of our individual identities…and for the sake of our pocketbooks.

To file a complaint with the IC3, click here.

For more information on cybercrime, check out some of the Homeland Security Digital Library Featured Topics, including: Cyber Crime & National Security, Cyber Infrastructure Protection, and Cyber Policy.

*Previous iterations of the FBI’s annual internet crime report are also available to view: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and older.