FBI’s IC3 leads the way for tracking internet scammers

Reporter: Rich Kolko Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Internet scams have been around nearly as long as the internet. The FBI has tracked these cons for 20 years at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

We wanted to give you a look at how the FBI’s IC3 operates.

The crime center recently received its 5 millionth complaint. And a lot of those are from Florida. We are second in the nation for victims and money lost.

“IC3 acts as a repository,” said Andrea Aprea with the FBI division in Tampa. “It collects data on all types of complaints and cybercrimes.”

And that data helps investigators by providing valuable intelligence. The goal is to make arrests and recover losses.

Using that intelligence, the FBI formed the recovery asset team (RAT). This group of agents, analysts and cyber experts helped recover $300 million in 2019.

“Some of the crimes are becoming more sophisticated,” Aprea said.

Back in 2001, victims lost on average $435. Last year’s average was $7,500.

The tactics have changed, but the goal is the same: Separate victims from their personal information and their money.

That’s a popular ploy in Southwest Florida.

“Romance scams because of the retirement population and people with significant income,” Aprea said. “They are prime targets.”

And an immediate prime target among scammers currently is preying on people’s fears during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes trying to sell false cures or vaccines that don’t exist. The FBI’s advice is to report any attempt to scam you to IC3.

“Cyber actors are always looking for an angle to advance their schemes,” Kolko said. “And, Yes. Certainly right now in the environment of the pandemic, they are using COVID-19 as a way to advance their fraud.”


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