Internet Crimes on the Rise: Virtual currency saw the largest percentage increase; others include extortion, lottery, social media, and personal data breaches

In the digital age, almost anything you could want is just a click away. You’re probably reading this article on a device that fits in your pocket and has all of your personal information conveniently organized by application.

Need to pay your credit card bills? There’s an app for that. Want to send money to a friend to cover your share of the takeout? There’s an app for that. Looking to buy tickets to a major sporting event or concert? You might have two or three apps to take care of that for you.

And while our personal devices should be helping to make things easier and more convenient, the honest truth is that they make some things more complicated.

More than half of Americans have no way of assessing if they’ve been involved in a data breach. With more than 14 billion records lost or stolen since 2013, the odds are fairly high that you’ve been involved whether you know it or not. That exposure could have compromised your home address, bank account, Social Security number, and more.

Data breaches may seem like a dime a dozen these days; attacks can happen almost anywhere and at any given time. Staying up to date on the most recent trends in cybercrime can help protect your data and prevent you from becoming a victim.

For a closer look at cyberattacks in 2018 (the most recent data available), Hotspot Shield analyzed the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) annual reports to understand how data breaches are changing and who’s at risk.

The Internet Crime Landscape

In half of all U.S. states, the most common internet crime was nonpayment or nondelivery (when goods are shipped out but payment is never fully rendered or processed). In 20% of states, extortion was the most common internet crime, including scenarios where money or property was unlawfully extracted through intimidation or false authority.

Less common, data breaches accounted for 6% of internet crimes in America, followed by phishing and pharming scams (4%). In three states, Arizona, Alabama, and Vermont, residents were more likely to be targeted by data breaches than any other form of criminal internet activity.

top internet crimes
Study: Internet crime attacks in the U.S.

Even if they aren’t making major headlines yet, the landscape of internet crimes is shifting. Virtual currency scams, more common in Vermont than anywhere else in the U.S., rose by over 1,000% between 2017 and 2018. Similarly, digital extortion increased by over 244%, and lottery scams increased by nearly 132%.

A majority of these crimes, including social media scams, government impersonation, and confidence (or romance) fraud were more common in New England than other regions of the U.S.

Top 15 Internet Crimes

The most popular crimes won’t always cost you the most to recover from, so it’s important to stay up to date on some of the less frequent forms of internet fraud.

In 2018, victims of investment fraud were conned out of more than $2.4 million, on average, adding up to nearly $253 million nationwide. Health care-related crimes set Americans back $719,000 more ($4.5 million nationwide), on average, and BEC/EAC crimes where email addresses were compromised cost over $603,000 more ($1.3 billion nationwide), on average.

Only six forms of internet crimes saw an average reduction in the cost to Americans in 2018, including terrorism, personal data breaches, social media schemes, and digital currency scams. The average cost of personal data breaches in the U.S. decreased by $11,000 in 2018 but still accounted for $149 billion in losses nationwide.

The Victims of Data Breaches

In 2018, Americans across the country lost a cumulative $2.7 billion to internet crimes, averaging out to more than $7,400 per victim. While those targeted in some states, including Alaska ($1.9K), Maine ($2.5K), and Mississippi ($2.6K), averaged the lowest losses for cyberattacks in 2018, residents in other parts of the country experienced much higher damages.

In North Carolina, the average loss related to internet crime was higher than any other state in the U.S., averaging $13,000 per person. The Southern state also moved up in the rankings for most losses overall in the U.S., rising from No. 17 in 2017 to No. 5 in 2018. Including North Carolina, Minnesota ($10.3K), Ohio ($10.2K), and Connecticut ($9.9K) also reported the highest above-average monetary cost for internet crimes.

Not every American is equally as likely to be exposed to internet crime, which may indicate there are certain precautions you can take to protect yourself against these attacks.

Compared to 2017, victims of internet fraud over age 60 lost $306 million more in 2018, averaging over $10,000 per person. Victims aged 50 to 59 lost a similar amount in 2018, also averaging more than $10,000 per person for a combined increase of $219 million.

Older Consumers Among Hardest Hit

Young people in 2018 were far less likely to be targeted for such costly criminal activity. Victims of internet fraud aged 20 to 29 lost an average of $3,200 each, accounting for nearly $67 million nationwide.

Protecting Your Data

In the world of internet crimes, knowledge is power. The more you know about the criminal activity lurking behind your web browsers, the more empowered you may be to prevent it.

In some cases, internet fraud is out of your hands. If a major company you’ve associated with is exposed in a major data breach, there’s not much you can do to prevent your data from being exposed along with it. However, when usernames and passwords are being leaked, the case for unique and more complex passwords seems even more compelling.

Overwhelmingly, the most common victims of internet crime in 2018 were older Americans, which indicated education may provide a serious opportunity to help reduce the billions of dollars lost every year across the U.S. in investment fraud, spoofing, and identity theft.

The more you share good internet behaviors and safety precautions with the people around you, the more likely they may be to adopt habits that can prevent the loss of thousands of dollars to scams and fraud.

Read next: Hacking Has Become a Highly Popular Career Choice, Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing
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