Cybercriminals stole $6.9 billion in 2021, using social engineering to break into remote workplaces


The number of cybercrime complaints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation rose 7% in 2021 to 847,376 and the total money lost to cybercrime rose 64% to $6.9 billion, the FBI said Tuesday in its annual Internet Crime Report, which highlighted how remote communication and virtual meetings can make businesses and individuals vulnerable to social engineering attacks by fraudsters.


Cybercriminals stole $2.4 billion by compromising business email accounts, which are often used to initiate fraudulent wire transfers; $1.46 billion through investment scams, which often involved fake cryptocurrency investment opportunities; and $956 million through trust fraud and romance scams, in which a scammer can pose as a potential romantic partner before demanding money to remedy a supposed emergency.

The rise of remote work and virtual meetings has led to a rise in online scams: a new technique involved scammers inviting company employees to a virtual meeting, then using a simulated “deepfake” sound of the voice of the framework for asking employees to transfer money to a fraudulent account. , according to the report.

Scammers are increasingly turning to hard-to-trace cryptocurrency transactions enabled by crypto-enabled ATMs, which the FBI describes as poorly regulated and offering instant and irreversible transactions.

Older people, who the FBI says are more vulnerable to scammers because they are often relatively confident and financially well-off, have lost significantly more to cybercrime than younger people – seniors aged 60 and over testified 92,371 complaints in 2021 and reported $1.68 billion lost, while people aged 20-29 filed 69,390 complaints but only reported $431 million lost.

California — historically the most cybercrime-prone state and the site of high-profile incidents including celebrity account breaches and multimillion-dollar “SIM card swapping” scams — has been the most hard hit in 2021, with 67,095 victims reporting losses of $1.23 billion, followed by Texas, with 41,148 victims reporting $606 million in losses, and New York, with 29,065 victims reporting $560 million losses.

Almost all measures of cybercrime have increased dramatically since 2017: money lost has increased by 393% and the total number of complaints has increased by 191%, while phishing reports, in which a scammer sends a emails claiming to represent a reputable company in order to trick the victim into revealing passwords or other information – increased by 1,178%.

Key context

As anti-fraud measures progressed, scammers evolved from simple email spoofing to sophisticated social engineering schemes, posing as customer service representatives, law enforcement and even family members of victims to gain access to victims’ accounts or to induce money transfers to fraudulent accounts. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s Asset Recovery Team (RAT), established in 2018, acts as a liaison between law enforcement and banks, investigating emerging cybercrime strategies and attempting to quickly freeze assets. funds fraudulently sent to US-based accounts. Since its inception, the RAT has managed to freeze $328 million, or about 74%, of a total of $443 million transferred in 1,726 incidents of fraud, the FBI reported. Reported personal data breaches affected 51,829 people in 2021, up 14% from the previous year, although personal data leaks were not always caused by scammers. A survey by cybersecurity news site CyberNews found that many Android users have had their personal and financial information leaked in unintentional security breaches in popular apps.

Large number

466,501. This is the number of cybercrime victims who filed a complaint with the FBI in the United States, compared to 303,949 victims in the United Kingdom and 25,002 victims in all other countries combined.


Maine had just $7.26 million in losses, the least of any state, followed by West Virginia with $9.45 million in losses and Vermont with $9.83 million in losses . North Dakota was home to just 670 cybercrime victims, followed by Vermont with 715 victims and Wyoming with 735 victims. However, American Samoa – a territory of approximately 46,366 people – reported the lowest number of any US state or territory, with $177,533 in casualties from 25 casualties.


Not all forms of cybercrime have increased since 2020. In 2021, the FBI received 49% fewer reports of online extortion and 24% fewer reports of online non-payment/non-delivery scams.

Further reading

“Americans Lost $1 Billion to Scammers Last Year, FBI Says” (Forbes)

“Cybercrime: the dark side of entrepreneurship” (Forbes)

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