Americans lost $10.3 billion to internet scams in 2022, FBI says

The revelation was part of an annual report produced by the FBI.

March 13, 2023, 4:27 PM

Americans lost $10.3 billion to a wide variety of internet scams last year, according to an FBI report released this month.

The losses were the highest in five years, according to the annual report from the FBI. The bureau's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) lodged more than 2,000 complaints per day.

The most highly reported crimes were phishing expeditions, with 300,497 victims reporting over $52 million in losses in 2022, according to the bureau. Phishing, defined as "the use of unsolicited email, text messages, and telephone calls purportedly from a legitimate company requesting personal, financial, and/or login credentials," is frequently successful because phishing emails will often resemble those from people victims know personally, prompting them to click on unsecured links.

Data breaches and non-payment scams were the next most common internet scams in 2022, claiming 58,859 and 51,679 victims, respectively, per the report.

Ransomware, a type of cyber intrusion which locks up a device's data until a ransom is paid, is of particular concern for cybersecurity professionals due to the underreporting of ransomware attacks by victims. In 2022, the FBI "received 2,385 complaints identified as ransomware with adjusted losses of more than $34.3 million," according to the report.

The FBI seal is pictured in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 10, 2022.
Charlie Neibergall/AP, FILE

"The IC3 has seen an increase in an additional extortion tactic used to facilitate ransomware. The threat actors pressure victims to pay by threatening to publish the stolen data if they do not pay the ransom," the IC3 warns.

By far, the most heavily targeted industry for ransomware attacks was the healthcare industry, followed by critical manufacturing' and government.

"The FBI does not encourage paying a ransom to criminal actors," the report says. "Paying a ransom may embolden adversaries to target additional organizations, encourage other criminal actors to engage in the distribution of ransomware, and/or fund illicit activities. Paying the ransom also does not guarantee that a victim’s files will be recovered."

Earlier this year, the Justice Department disrupted a ransomware gang called HIVE, which was responsible for 87 incidents targeting critical infrastructure, the report says.

Call center scams, which emanate from India primarily, are responsible for over $1 billion in losses to victims.

"Call centers overwhelmingly target the elderly, with devastating effects," the report says. "Almost half the victims report to be over 60 (46%), and experience 69% of the losses (over $724 million)."

In total, the elderly lost $3.1 billion to internet scams in 2022, the most of any age group.

The FBI has a 73% success rate in getting victims their funds back, according to the report.