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FBI warns South Carolinians about cybercrime rise, says losses in 2021 already more than 2020

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2021 at 8:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) -Victims of cybercrimes in South Carolina have already lost more money so far this year than in all of 2020, according to the FBI.

The bureau’s office in Columbia said that the 2021 total is now more than $40 million and continues to rise.

“Realize that these attacks are not going to stop,” Supervisory Special Agent Cindy Starns said. “They are so lucrative.”

Data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center shows the number of cybercrimes reported across South Carolina jumped about 30% from 2019 to 2020, from 4,541 complaints to 5,853.

Across the entire country, the FBI says that increase was more significant, with the number of complaints surging nearly 70% from 2019′s 467,361 complaints to 2020′s 791,790.

“We are getting calls every day about people losing money or being socially engineered to give up money,” Starns said.

Cybercrimes most frequently reported in South Carolina last year were non-payment/non-delivery — which Starns described as people paying for a good or service they never received—extortion, and personal data breach.

The FBI said the pandemic has made more Americans and South Carolinians now vulnerable to attacks.

“There’s so many people in need, whether it’s for their work, for their education, just trying to understand what’s going on with the virus, that it’s very easy to fall for a lot of these scams that are out there,” Starns said.

That includes cybercriminals taking advantage of more people working from home, a trend that has continued for many workers in 2021.

“You’re now divorced from your corporate IT help desk and support. It might’ve had a layer of protection,” Starns said. “Now you’re responsible for your own security, and not everybody has the same skillset to deal with those problems.”

She said more people are transitioning parts of their social lives online as well, including through online dating or meeting people in a virtual space.

“You’re trying to promote yourself or learn about other people, and they expect you to talk about where you live, what do you do, what are your interests, that kind of stuff,” Starns said. “Suddenly, it’s a treasure trove of personal information that can add to how you’re targeted and follow on scams.”

The FBI recommends people take steps to prevent these attacks and cybercrimes, including by frequently updating apps, browsers, and operating systems on their phones, computers, and tablets. Starns also said people should be skeptical of any requests for information that they did not initiate themselves, including over the phone or computer.

The FBI encourages victims of cybercrimes to report those crimes to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.

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