Internet crime report: Social media, virtual currency see spike

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center released its 2014 report, in which it reports that criminal activity on social media has quadrupled in the past five years.
An image of a bitcoin mine. The FBI says criminals are moving to cryptocurrency platforms in order to commit various types of fraud. (Marko Ahtisaari/Flickr)

If you’re a social media maven who obsesses over block chains, you should probably pay attention to a recent report from the FBI.

According to the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, 2014 saw criminals increase their use of social media and platforms related to cryptocurrencies to carry out various crimes.

Overall, IC3 received 269,422 complaints in 2014, which totaled more than $800 million lost. On average, the center received around 22,000 complaints a month with the average dollar loss totaling $2,971 per complaint.


The bureau reports that complaints focused on social media accounts have quadrupled in the past five years, with 12 percent of all complaints in 2014 involving some aspect of social media.

IC3 found that criminals are using “Like” or “Share” buttons for click-jacking operations, downloading malware to a user’s computer or sending personal information to malicious websites. “Doxing” (releasing personally identifiable information without authorization) and “pharming” (redirecting users from legitimate websites to fraudulent ones) were also to blame for the spike in crimes related to social media.

There were also accounts of crimes involving digital currencies. In one common scam reported last year, victims would send high-performance computers to data centers that generate crypto-coins — a process known as “mining” — in exchange for bitcoin. However the operators would not send the victims any bitcoin in return. Scammers also would hack into virtual wallets — which hold currencies like bitcoin, litecoin or peercoin — and hold them for ransom.

The report also says millions of dollars were bilked from people through emails from criminals who pose as government officials. Complains often said emails appeared from former Attorney General Eric Holder or FBI Director James Comey, threatening legal action if information wasn’t turned over. IC3 reports that it fielded approximately 16 complaints per day related to government impersonation, with victims losing $23,200 per day.

The FBI says in its annual report other popular scams were related to auto fraud, real estate fraud, payday loan schemes and scams related to people pretending to “seek companionship or romance online.”


While the office logged its 3 millionth complaint last year, the report’s numbers are a fraction of the total picture concerning Internet fraud. According to the Justice Department, only 15 percent of the nation’s fraud victims report their crimes to law enforcement, with less than 10 percent of fraud victims filing a complaint through IC3’s website.

Read the full FBI report below.

IC3 2014 Internet Crime Report by Greg Otto

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