Despite all the warnings, Americans are still getting scammed online. Last year alone, scam artists took Americans for $2.7 billion.
The number is part of a report by a division of the FBI. On average, there are more than 900 scam complaints received each day by the agency.
Find out which states were hit hardest by internet scams, as well as which scams proved to be the most lucrative for cybercriminals. We'll also tell you ways you can protect yourself online.
Online scams on the rise
In its 2018 Internet Crime Report, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 351,936 complaints about internet-enabled theft, fraud, and exploitation. That's about 50,000 more complaints than in 2017.
The most frequently reported complaints were:
- Non-payment/non-delivery scams -- With these scams, you send a product but don't get paid or you pay and don't receive the item.
- Extortion -- Cons threaten physical harm, criminal prosecution or public exposure to force you to give them money.
- Personal data breaches -- A person's personal data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by hackers.
The most financially costly complaints were:
- Business email compromise/email account compromise -- In 2018, Americans lost almost $1.3 billion to these types of scams. The business email compromise (BEC) scam targets businesses that regularly use wire transfer payments. Email account scams are similar but the targets are individuals.
- Romance or confidence fraud -- Americans were scammed out of more than $362 million in this fraud. Victims are manipulated into believing the scammer and the victim have a family, friendly or romantic relationship. Victims can be persuaded to send money, personal and financial information or valuable items.
- Investment scams -- This con cost Americans almost $252 million. Investors are lured into their money in a plan that is based on false information.
According to the FBI, the least victimized age group was under 20, losing $12 million. The most victimized group was over 60, losing more than $649 million.
Number of internet scam victims varies by state
Complaints of internet scams came in from across the country, with some states logging in many more victims than others. But just because a state had more victims does not mean it had the most losses.
Top 5 states per victim:
- California -- 49,031
- Texas -- 5,589
- Florida -- 23,984
- New York -- 18,124 33
- Virginia -- 14,800
The state with the fewest number of internet-scam victims was North Dakota with 459.
Top 5 states for losses:
- California -- $450.4 million
- New York -- $201 million
- Texas -- $195.6 million
- Florida -- $178 million
- North Carolina -- $137 million
The state with the least amount of losses was South Dakota at $1.7 million. In order to understand the scope of the number of victims across the nation, the communications technology company CenturyLink took a deep dive into the numbers and created this map:
In its deep dive, CenturyLink also found that nearly 41,000 victims were scammed on social media, losing over $101 million. Another $182 million was lost through virtual currency sams that his 36,000 people.
How to avoid internet scammers
As we told you earlier, Americans lost $1.3 billion to email scams -- easily the most profitable scam for cybercriminals. These scams proliferate through phishing operations. Here are some ways to protect yourself:
Watch out for links
If there's even a chance that you've come across a phishing email, don't click on any links. Go to the website in question by typing the address directly in another window or tab. And stay away from attachments, too.
It's not just about links and attachments. Don't respond with personal details to any email that seems even slightly suspicious, even even if it's from a company you do business with.
Stop using the same password for multiple accounts. All it takes is one breach to potentially expose any number of your other accounts. We've got tips on creating strong, unique passwords you can check out by clicking here.
We also have warnings to help protect yourself from romance or confidence fraud, or what we call here at Komando.com sweetheart scams.
Here's what to watch out for:
- Requests for money for transportation costs, communication fees, marriage processing or medical fees.
- Requests that you send money or ship property to a third-party. Oftentimes, the company exists but is not part of the scam.
- Communicates only via social media or email.
- Emails and texts have common spelling, grammatical or language errors.
- Always have excuses for not meeting in person.
To avoid being a victim of any online scam, it's important to always remain vigilant. Too much confidence could lead to dropping our guard and losing thousands of dollars and important data.
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