More than $10 billion in losses from online scams were reported to the FBI in 2022, the highest annual loss in the last five years, according to a new report from the bureau.
The more than $3 billion jump in reports of online fraud from 2021 to 2022 was driven by a near-tripling in reports of cryptocurrency investment fraud, the FBI said in its annual Internet Crime Report.
The report tallies a wide variety of fraud complaints – from marketing scams to ransomware – and is a metric for US policymakers in measuring how much hacking and other schemes are costing the American economy.
While people in their 30s filed the most fraud complaints last year, the burden of many digital scams fell on the elderly. People over 60 accounted for $724 million, or more than two-thirds of the reported losses from “call center fraud,” according to the FBI. Such fraud occurs when scammers call someone impersonating tech support or government agencies.
Ransomware, which locks computers until hackers are paid off, accounted for about $34 million in adjusted losses reported to the FBI last year. The relatively modest figure compared to other forms of fraud could be due to the fact that many victim organizations still do not report ransomware attacks to the FBI.
A popular type of ransomware called Hive was used in 87 attacks last year, according to the FBI. The bureau seized Hive operatives’ computer infrastructure earlier this year, but not before hackers affiliated with the ransomware extorted more than $100 million from hospitals, schools and other victims around the world.
While ransomware tends to get the headlines, a different hacking scheme known as business email compromise (BEC) leads to far more money stolen from victims in aggregate. A BEC scheme typically involves someone tricking a victim into wiring them money, often by impersonating a customer or a relative.
One of the more high-profile examples of BEC fraud last year cost the city of Lexington, Kentucky, about $4 million in federal funding for housing assistance.
BEC scams accounted for about $2.7 billion in adjusted losses in 2022, compared to about $2.4 billion in 2021, according to FBI data.