ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — There were more than COVID-19 cases on the rise in New York during 2020. Consumer fraud was also on the rise with far more reports in 2020 than in 2019 and with greater financial consequences.
Criminals used the pandemic to steal credit card numbers, extort money, and steal people’s identities, getting away with millions, based on reports from multiple government agencies both Federal and state.
Reports of identity theft in New York grew by 85% from 2019 to 2020, according to the State Comptroller’s Office review of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data on consumer fraud. The FTC received 107,929 reports of fraud last year in N.Y., up from 87,585 in 2019, according to its database.
“The era of COVID-19 has brought enormous suffering and persistent uncertainty to New Yorkers. Adding to both the financial and psychological pain of the pandemic is a dramatic increase in identity theft during the past year,” NYS Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli said.
Reports of fraud including identity theft and other reports were up by 67,959 from 2019 to 2020. They totaled 240,598, up from 172,639 the previous year. New Yorkers lost $50.9 million more in 2020 to fraud from the previous year as well. In 2020 they lost $174 million, compared to $123.1 million in 2019.
FTC’s New York fraud data
|Reports of fraud||87,585||107,929|
|Total money loss||$123.1M||$174M|
|Average amount of money loss||$375||$300|
|Total reports of fraud, identity theft, and other reports||172,639||240,598|
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Cyber Crime Unit also reported an increase in fraudulent activity between last year and 2019. Reports of extortion soared to more than 500% from 734 complaints in 2019 to 3,906 in 2020, according to the FBI’s annual Internet Crime Reports.
Scammers use lottery, sweepstakes, or inheritance scams along with phishing scams to swindle New Yorkers out of 50% more money in 2020, to a total of $415,812,917. It put the state second in the U.S. for most money lost from fraud in 2020, according to the FBI. N.Y. had been number five on the list in 2019 with $198,765,769 in reported losses.
FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center reports
Number of reports by fraud type
|Non-payment or undelivered goods/services||3395||6372|
|Incomplete complaints (no lead value)||3638||6712|
Money loss by fraud type
|Non-payment or undelivered goods/services||$10,436,555||$8,074,599|
Scammers took further advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic preying on New Yorkers in fraudulent healthcare-related schemes that cost consumers $1,998,102. The cost of healthcare-related frauds in 2019 was a paltry $226,382.
In 2020, while the American public was focused on protecting our families from a global pandemic and helping others in need, cybercriminals took advantage of an opportunity to profit from our dependence on technology to go on an Internet crime spree. These criminals used phishing, spoofing, extortion, and various types of Internet-enabled fraud to target the most vulnerable in our society – medical workers searching for personal protective equipment, families looking for information about stimulus checks to help pay bills, and many others.
Crimes of this type are just a small part of what the FBI combats through our criminal and cyber investigative work. Key to our cyber mission is the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a trustworthy source for information on cybercriminal activity, and a way for the public to report directly to us when they suspect they are a victim of cybercrime.Paul Abbate, Deputy Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Top five fraud scams by money loss in 2020
|Fraud type||Total money loss|
|Business email or email account compromise||$268,343,363|
|Confidence fraud, romance||$26,286,815|
|Corporate data breach||$17,330,670|
|Non-payment or undelivered goods/services||$16,997,357|
Top five fraud scams by money loss in 2019
|Fraud type||Total money loss|
|Business email or email account compromise||$112,212,230|
|Confidence fraud, romance||$19,695,267|
Compromised business email or email accounts saw the highest financial losses of any fraud type in both 2019 and 2020 but with greater impact in 2020. Losses reported were $268,343,363 as opposed to $112,212,230 in 2019.
Confidence or romance fraud, also known as catfishing, moved up to rank number two for most money loss from its number three position in 2019. A reported $6,591,548 more was lost to catfishing scams in 2020.
Nationwide the FTC said financial loss from consumer fraud totaled $3.3 billion in 2020 compared to $1.8 billion in 2019.