• An FBI report has shown that 2020 was the worst on record for victims of internet crime in the US.
  • The resulting financial losses came to a total of $4.2 billion.
  • The most common internet crimes were phishing, non-payment/non-delivery scams and extortion, with 28,500 complaints associated with COVID-19 fraud.
  • Fraudulent activity also included asking people to pay for their vaccinations.

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has released its 2020 Internet Crime Report, which found that 2020 was a record year for both victims of internet crime and dollar losses in the United States. 791,790 complaints were logged by IC3 in the last calendar year with total losses amounting to $4.2 billion. The most frequent internet crimes recorded in 2020 were phishing, non-payment/non-delivery scams and extortion. Business Email Compromise schemes were the costliest internet crimes last year with adjusted losses of $1.8 billion.

2020 was notable for the emergence of schemes exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic with both individuals and businesses targeted. Some 28,500 complaints were received relating to Covid-19 scams with most of them aimed at the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). They mainly involved grant fraud, loan fraud, and phishing for Personally Identifiable Information. In many cases, victims did not realise they had been targeted until they attempted to file their own legitimate claims for unemployment insurance benefits.

media, entertainment and culture

What is the World Economic Forum doing about improving online safety?

With almost 3.8 billion people now online globally, the digital world offers significant benefits, but also poses the risks of harmful content.

The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), created by the World Federation of Advertisers, is scaling its impact by partnering with the World Economic Forum's platform for Media, Entertainment and Culture to improve the safety of digital environments, addressing harmful and misleading media while protecting consumers and brands.

GARM focuses on ensuring viewer safety for consumers, reducing risks for advertisers, developing credibility for digital platforms and, more broadly, ensuring a sustainable online ecosystem.

The Alliance is working with the Forum’s network of industry, academic, civil society and public-sector partners to amplify its work on digital safety and to ensure that consumers and their data are protected online within a healthier media ecosystem.

Businesses can join the Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Culture and apply to partner with the Alliance and similar initiatives. Read more in our Impact Story or contact us to find out more.

Another growing problem throughout the pandemic has been criminals impersonating government representatives over the phone, via email and through social media. Through charades and threats, they managed to gain both money and personal information. Scams have also emerged as the pace of vaccinations accelerated where people have been asked to pay for jabs out of pocket or to provide personal information in exchange for appointments.

a graph showing the financial losses suffered by victims of internet crime reported to the FBI
The amount of money lost due to internet crime has drastically increased from 2012 - 2020.
Image: Statista