TAMPA, Fla. — Criminals lurking online are costing Floridians a lot of money.
A new report from Florida Atlantic University's Center for Forensic Accounting says victim losses for internet crime grew 88 percent from 2015 to 2018 in Florida.
According to the report, it jumped from $95 million in 2015 to $178 million in 2018.
"To give an idea of what's going on on a per victim basis, it's huge and it's growing," said Dr. Michael Crain, the center's director. "In 2015, the average Florida victim to internet crime lost $4,750. It grew to over $7,400 per Floridian victim and the trend, it's just getting bigger."
Crain used FBI crime statistics from 2015 to 2018 to form the report. It found not only are internet crimes more persistent, but also becoming more sophisticated. The report found business email compromise, confidence and romance fraud, corporate data breach, real estate and rental fraud and credit card fraud had high victim losses.
"That's only what's being reported to the FBI. In actuality, probably more crime is going on that's not being reported to the FBI," said Crain.
The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates there's $2.71 billion in victim losses in 2018 and receives around 300,000 complaints per year.
The FBI said one of the most prevalent types of internet crime in our area is business email compromise.
"It is a financial transaction that goes through an email account that has been hacked or spoofed," said Nestor Mascarell, a supervisory forensic accountant with the FBI.
He said they receive compromise reports almost every other day to daily.
"On average, it’s a high dollar amount for the amount of scamming that goes on through business email compromise than robbing a bank. This is where the fraudsters are going to," said Mascarell.
BEC/EAC crimes in 2018 had a victim loss of nearly $83 million, according to IC3 2018 data.
"I think a lot of it is there is more crime there is more reporting and also the amount that people are paying getting ripped off for are a lot higher than what they were before," said Stacy Arruda.
She is the executive director for Florida ISAO.
"For example on business email compromise there were two cities in the state of Florida that fell victim to BEC this past year one for $750K the other for almost half a million dollars," she said.
Experts recommend limiting what personal information you put online, and for businesses to train their employees on business email scams.
Mascarell said if someone thinks they're a victim, to contact their bank, law enforcement or the FBI and report it to Internet Crime Complaint Center and that you can also contact the agency at 813-253-1000.