2020 was a big year for hackers and cybercriminals running amok in the U.S., as the FBI's yearly Internet Crime Report points out. New records of complaints were broken, and billions of dollars will have most likely been lost.
One of the new targets, and perhaps new lows, for cybercriminals last year was online exploitation of the CARES Act, the U.S. federal economic relief package designed to support small businesses during the pandemic.
It turns out organized groups of hackers submitted fake online employment claims in bulk, by using stolen data, and ended up amassing millions of dollars.
"Fraudsters targeted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which included provisions to help small businesses during the pandemic," the report reads.
"The IC3 received thousands of complaints reporting emerging financial crime revolving around CARES Act stimulus funds, specifically targeting unemployment insurance, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, and Small Business Economic Injury Disaster Loans, as well as other COVID-related fraud."
How cybercrime is reported
Individuals and businesses can use the IC3's portal to report suspected cases of online fraud, and it turns out that last year saw a 69 percent increase in reports compared with 2019.
Unfortunately, cybercrime is becoming more and more prominent, especially as our world becomes more and more digitalized every day.
One of the most targeted groups of individuals for online scams and hack attacks are people over 60. This group is on hackers' radars as they're known as not being as tech-savvy as younger generations, and can be more easily manipulated online.
On top of that, in keeping with past years, in 2020, business email and regular email compromise were some of the most popular forms of this criminal activity. Cybercriminals usually gain access to an email address then trick people on the mailing list or address list to transfer money fraudulently.
The IC3 came into play in 2000, and the reports of hacker attacks have increased year after year. Within the past five years, approximately $13.3 billion have been reported lost, per the agency.
Keeping a close eye on your email accounts for any strange links, keeping your personal information safe, and deleting any requests for money from random email addresses are some of the ways of steering clear of these online fraudsters.