Internet crime in the U.S. increased 7 percent in 2021, resulting in losses of more than $6.9 billion, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) said in a report released Tuesday.
The report analyzed more than 847,000 complaints of potential internet crimes, with the top three reported internet crimes listed as phishing scams, non-payment/non-delivery scams and personal data breach, according to a news release from the FBI.
There have been more than 6.5 million internet crime complaints made to IC3 since its formation in 2000, according to the report. The increase in cybercrime last year was not isolated, as statistics outlined in the report show the number of complaints and losses has been steadily growing over the past five years, with complaints especially jumping from 2019 to 2020, when people had to be online more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IC3 received an average of 552,000 complaints of internet crime per year between 2017 and 2021, with 2020 and 2021 increasing well above that average to 791,790 and 847,376 complaints respectively, the report added. In 2017, cybercrime losses were at about $1.4 billion, making 2021’s $6.9 billion figure a more than 392 percent increase over the four years.
Of all the types of internet crimes, phishing scams were the most popular, making up nearly 40 percent of cybercrimes in 2021, the report said. Phishing involves pretending to be a reputable individual or company via email or other form of online communication and using the messages to send malicious links, thereby gaining access to victims’ login information for a variety of accounts.
“It is far easier to trick someone into clicking a malicious link in a seemingly legitimate phishing email than it is to break through a computer’s defenses,” according to TechTarget.
The next most popular type of internet crime was the non-payment/non-delivery scam, with the IC3 receiving more than 82,000 complaints in 2021, the report said. These scams involve an online seller never receiving payment for an item it sent or an online buyer never receiving the item they purchased.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Update 03/22/22 2:35 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information.