The Top Cybercrimes and How to Protect Yourself from Becoming a Victim 

Protect Yourself from Becoming a Victim 

Over the past year, the amount of cybercrime has skyrocketed. The FBI’s recently released Internet Crime Report lists nearly 800,000 complaints of suspected internet crime. That’s more than double the number from 2019 of more than 300,000. On average, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives more than 2,000 complaints on an average day.

Reported losses add up to more than $4.2 billion, according to the FBI.

The Top Five Cybercrimes of 2020

The top five cybercrimes over the past year reported to the FBI include:

  1. Phishing scams
  2. Non-payment or non-delivery
  3. Extortion
  4. Data breaches
  5. Identity theft

Phishing scams continue to top the list of cybercrimes.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing scams typically use email or text to trick users into revealing personal information, such as account numbers, credit card information, or passwords.

These scams can be extremely sophisticated. Scammers often impersonate well-known companies with a lookalike email address and incorporate company logos into their emails. When users click on links, they may go to a fraudulent website that mirrors the real one. This creates a sense of trust and familiarity which leads users to enter personal information. This information is then used to take over accounts, use victim emails to further the scam, or bundle and sell the information on the dark web.

Criminals use social engineering to learn details about someone’s life or work and then use that information to build trust. In one case, scammers learned that an executive had a business trip out of the country. Using a spoofed email account that appeared to be that of the executive, they emailed the company CFO and asked them to wire money since he was in another country.

Phishing emails are often the trigger event to get someone to click on a link that can launch malicious software to steal information or ransomware to encrypt user data until the ransom is paid.

Other Cybercrimes

Here are some of the more common cybercrimes beyond phishing.

Non-payment or Non-delivery

Criminals set up eCommerce sites and gladly take your money, but then never deliver the goods you paid for.


Scammers use ransomware to lock up your files, ask for protection money to safeguard your data or stop attacks, or demand payment to stop the release of sensitive information.

Data Breaches

Often using stolen credentials, cybercriminals breach computer networks to steal sensitive data. More than 37 billion records were compromised in 2020.

Identity Theft

Using various tactics, scammers steal your identity. They then impersonate you in a variety of ways from taking out credit cards in your name to emptying your bank account to soliciting others to send money for emergencies. According to the Insurance Industry Institute (III), losses from identity theft cases alone totaled more than $712 billion in 2020.

Protecting Yourself from Cybercrime

Have you given much thought to whether your data has been compromised or you might be a victim of cybercrime without even knowing it? More than two-thirds of Americans have never checked to see if they have become unwitting of a data breach or cybercrime. And, if they have been a victim, 56% of Americans say they don’t know what to do about it.

So, what can you do? The best advice is to be proactive and exercise caution when going online. Here are the top tips from industry security experts:

  • Be aware of phishing scams and any offer that appears to be too good to be true.
  • Don’t click on links in emails unless you know it is from a legitimate source.
  • Don’t open suspicious attachments.
  • Use antivirus software and keep it up to date.
  • Use a home firewall to screen internet traffic.

You should also make sure all your software is up to date. Hackers like to find exploits in software code to gain unauthorized entry to your devices. Manufacturers tend to patch these exploits quickly, but if you don’t apply these patches when they are released, your devices may be unprotected.

Be careful when using public Wi-Fi, such as at a coffee shop or other public venue. Criminals can create their own Wi-Fi hotspots and monitor what you’re doing online or intercept your data using public Wi-Fi. Always use a virtual private network (VPN) to mask your identity and encrypt your data when using public Wi-Fi.

Add a Security Suite for Comprehensive Protection

Consider adding a security suite to protect your data. This would include device and identity protection for your desktop, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, along with monitoring to detect any compromised information.

For maximum security, a security suite toolset might include:

  • Mobile security: protection for iOS and Android devices
  • Wi-Fi protection: a secure VPN for when you use public Wi-Fi
  • ID protection: monitoring of the dark web for personal data exposure
  • Password management: secure password manager to encrypt passwords
  • 24/7 support

Staying safe online and protecting your data requires a proactive approach coupled with the right security suite.