Online crime cost Americans billions last year

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Brazhyk)

Online scams are now an almost $7 billion “industry” according to the FBI. The Bureau’s annual Internet Crime Report states that fraudsters stole $6.9 billion from Americans during 2021, an increase of more than threefold, compared to the $2 billion stolen just two years ago.

The figure is likely to be even bigger, given that the report bases its findings only on internet crime complaints filed during 2021. There had been a total of 847,376 of those, up 7% year-on-year, but also up 81%, compared to 2019.

Phishing was the most popular scam method, followed by non-payment/non-delivery frauds, and personal data breaches. On the other hand, Business Email Compromise (BEC), where fraudsters assume the identities of people's business partners or bosses, was the most devastating form of fraud, costing people more than $2.3 billion, alone.

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Covid influence

Investment fraud, and romance/confidence fraud, round out the top three. 

The FBI has also said that Covid-19 played a major role in the spike of online fraud. The pandemic, and the lockdowns, significantly popularized remote working, as well as doing pretty much everything else, online. 

In 2020, the Bureau got more than 28,500 complaints of scams related directly to Covid-19, a figure that seemingly dropped to almost 0 last year. 

But just because Covid-19 is over, that doesn’t mean online scams are done for. In fact, the FBI believes they’re only going to grow bigger, and more dangerous. Cryptocurrencies have made it a lot easier to steal money from people, be it through cryptominers, malware, or a more basic form of scam, and scam artists are likely to increasingly adopt the novel technology.

Romance scams, the omniprevalent tech support fraud, as well as ransomware, are all expected to stick around for years to come. 

It’s also worth mentioning that in the overall number of victims per state, total loss by state, as well as count by subject, per state, it’s always California that’s number one. 


Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.