FAU Research Reveals Internet Crime Becoming More Sophisticated
Internet crimes are becoming more sophisticated and persistent in Florida and several of America’s other most populous states, including California, New York, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina, according to research from Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Forensic Accounting.
The researchers identify the top states as having the largest victim monetary losses and number of victims, and their report shows online crime trends in the last four years before 2019 (2015 to 2018) for the six top states with the highest internet crime activity.
California had the largest victim losses and largest number of victims from 2015 to 2018, with an increase in victim losses of 130 percent, from $195 million to $451 million. The number of victims in California also increased significantly, from 35,000 in 2015 to 49,000 in 2018, a 41 percent increase.
Florida was second after California in 2015 for states with highest victim losses with total losses of $95 million. While Florida’s total victim losses grew 88 percent from 2015 through 2018 to $178 million, the state fell to fourth place in total victim losses for 2018 following California, New York and Texas.
Victim losses in New York had a sharp increase from $58 million in 2015 to $201 million in 2018, a 246 percent increase. Texas had a 210 percent increase in total victim losses, from $63 million in 2015 to $196 million in 2018. In 2018, North Carolina became the leader with the highest loss rate, while Virginia became the leader with the highest victim rate.
“Probably the most practical and the most effective way to combat internet crime is through public awareness,” said Michael Crain, director of FAU’s Center for Forensic Accounting. “Basically, until about 20 or 30 years ago, we could actually see people who were a threat to our personal safety and the theme was be aware of your surroundings. Now, criminals can be in another country sitting in their house at a computer and victimize someone.”
The result of compiling FBI internet crime statistics over multiple years, this research includes fraud committed online through the internet on individuals and businesses. It shows trends in types of internet crimes and U.S. states with the highest reported victim losses and number of victims.
Researchers hope this information can be used to increase public awareness and to inform government agencies for law enforcement and policy making.
The FAU researchers also identified seven top internet crimes with high victim losses. Business Email Compromise/Email Account Compromise (BEC/EAC) was the top online crime in 2018 with reported victim losses of $1.2 billion. BEC/EAC comprised about 30 to 50 percent of all victim losses during 2018 in five of the six top states: 50 percent in New York, 46 percent in Texas, 33 percent in California, 33 percent in Virginia, 32 percent in Florida and 20 percent in North Carolina.
Confidence Fraud/Romance placed second among top internet crimes, with a total reported amount of victim losses of $363 million in 2018. From 2015 through 2018, the six top states experienced increases in victim losses from Confidence Fraud/Romance crime, with North Carolina and California having the highest growth of 257 percent and 140 percent, respectively.
Corporate Data Breach, Real Estate/Rental fraud and Credit Card Fraud were also crimes with higher victim losses in 2018, especially in California and Florida.
The data came from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), founded in 2000 to receive internet crime complaints from the public. Every year, the FBI’s IC3 publishes general data with victim numbers and loss amounts for each internet crime type. Separately, IC3 publishes annual data for each of the U.S. states and territories.
The full FAU Internet Crime Research Reports can be found online at https://business.fau.edu/internetcrime. The Center for Forensic Accounting plans to compile these reports on an annual basis.