FBI: West Virginians more prone to cyber crimes

Hacker types on keyboard
Hacker types on keyboard(CBS Newspath)
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 4:17 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - As digital footprints continue to grow, cyber experts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believe so does the risk of falling victim to an online scam.

New data from the FBI shows 787 West Virginians have already lost $8.9 million in cyber crimes so far from January to May of 2022.

“We haven’t seen a time like this before the threats are more pervasive, sophisticated,” said Mike Nordwall, a Special Agent in Charge at the FBI. “It’s a wider range of victims, and the potential impact and devastation from these threats is like nothing we’ve seen before.”

The number of victims aged 20 to 59 have increased each year since 2019.

Victims in the 30 to 39 age group almost tripled between 2020 and 2021 with 601 West Virginians losing more than $800,000 to scammers last year.

Jonathan Holmes, a supervisory special agent with the agency, said Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams and ransomware attacks are the two most common types of cyber crimes.

A BEC scam takes place when a hacker takes over an email account and start requesting money to new accounts from previously established clients.

“We attribute the increase in these types of attacks based upon the availability of money,” Holmes said. “We’re having a lot of success by arresting these individuals, seizing the money they’re receiving and taking down the infrastructure they use to conduct these attacks.”

FBI data shows so far in 2022, two West Virginians have lost $2.5 million in ransomware attacks, but Holmes believes that number could be much higher, because companies are frequently ashamed to report the attack to law enforcement.

Agents say scammers are highly aware of how much of everyday life is online and are looking for vulnerable people to fall victim to their tactics, so it’s important to keep a close watch on online.

Holmes said there are several ways to see if a scammer is on the horizon.

“Stuff is spread by people clicking on malicious links or an attachment in an email they click,” he said. “If the sentences are worded different or the tone of the email is different from the person you normally receive emails from, that’s a big red flag.”

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