Privacy & Security 5 min. read

Study: Internet crime attacks in the U.S.

Different techniques are being used for cybercrime. A relatively concerning example is ransomware, which is a targeted attack that holds data hostage until a ransom is paid. Because this usually involves sensitive information, businesses and individuals will often acquiesce to the demands of the ransom in exchange for the safe return of their data, despite recommendations to resist extortion.

Since ransomware is just one facet of cybercrime, we wanted to investigate how internet crimes as a whole affect people nationwide. By analyzing the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) annual reports, with an emphasis on the latest state data from 2018, we were able to understand more about how cybercrimes occur, which internet crimes are the most common, and who deals with these issues the most. 

Nonpayment/Nondelivery Dominates Reports

When we think about cybercrime, we may default to instances of phishing, scamming, extortion, or data breaches, which have been involved in many high-profile internet crimes such as the 2017 Equifax data breach. However, the majority of reported internet crimes were based on commerce fraud: Nonpayment/nondelivery was the top internet crime for 70% of the states. This type of crime might be more obvious to victims, as opposed to data breaches, which can remain unknown to those affected

Nonpayment/nondelivery involves either a vendor not getting paid for a good or service or a customer who doesn’t receive goods or services they paid for. Amazon and other e-commerce companies have begun to dominate online retail spending, possibly creating more opportunities for related crimes.

Virtual Currency Crimes Up Over 1,000%

Top 15 Internet Crimes

Technological advancements have enabled certain types of crime, such as those involving virtual currency. Cases of virtual currency crime increased by over 1,000% between 2017 and 2018. 

The New England region appeared to be the biggest target for internet crimes. Vermont saw the greatest increase in virtual currency crime, while New Hampshire experienced the most extortion, and Rhode Island residents were the top victims to four internet crimes: lottery/sweepstakes/inheritance, social media, government impersonation, and confidence fraud/romance. 

Investment, Health Care Crimes Had the Greatest Losses

Top Internet Crimes from 2017 to 2018

Investment and health care schemes accounted for the top two internet crimes, with the former accumulating nearly $2.4 million in losses from 2017 to 2018. Investment crimes can involve Ponzi or pyramid schemes, alluring consumers with sleek websites and appeals to common interests

The No. 3 internet crime with the greatest losses belonged to business email compromise (BEC) or email account compromise (EAC), totaling over $600,000 in losses. In BEC/EAC cases, a business or individual is fooled into sending a wire transfer to someone impersonating a legitimate source. This type of fraud is on the rise, with reported losses having doubled in 2018

North Carolina, Minnesota Lead State Losses

Average Monetary Losses Due to Internet Crimes in 2018, by State

When looking at nationwide monetary losses per victim, there were a few hot spots for internet crimes. According to the data, there was a total of $2.71 billion lost by victims of internet crime, with the most losses occurring in North Carolina ($13,000), Minnesota ($10,300), and Ohio ($10,200). 

North Carolina moved through the rankings from No. 17 in total losses in 2017 to No. 5 in 2018, indicating the state might be increasingly targeted by cybercriminals. Thankfully, the Tar Heel State, along with Mississippi and New Jersey, are the latest states to become eligible for funding from the Cybercrime Victim Support Initiative. 

Older Americans Among Hardest Hit

For those aged 20 to 29, Iowa and California offered the worst conditions for victims of internet criminals. However, older Americans were disproportionately affected and lost the most money to internet scams and fraud. Internet fraud in Iowa has taken the form of a fake Neil Young concert and traditional scams, such as a Linn County couple who lost around $15,000 to an inheritance scam. Additionally, Iowa’s self-reported imposter scams more than doubled in 2018.

Unsecure websites and public network use can be particularly vulnerable to would-be hackers or scammers, both of which are popular tactics used against the elderly.

Fending Off Internet Criminals

With knowledge and confidence, protecting yourself from the nefarious forces that exist online is easier than you think.

One good rule of thumb when approaching online safety is to make sure your internet activity is protected. Help make sure your IP address and browsing history stay hidden with Hotspot Shield’s secure, fast VPN. Our military-grade encryption helps set your mind at ease as you navigate the online world.


Data are from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) annual reports, with an emphasis on the latest state data from 2018. The IC3 allows Americans who have been victims of cybercrime to report information on their experiences to the FBI. 

Information submitted by citizens is analyzed and sent to various law enforcement agencies for investigation. Sometimes, there are incomplete reports that cause the FBI to be unable to determine the type of crime, which they categorize as “No Lead Value.”

Outside of this, the FBI investigates a total of 33 internet crimes.

For the graphic titled, “Average Monetary Losses Due to Internet Crimes in 2018,” loss per victim was calculated per state by: (total monetary loss/total victim count)

For the graphic titled, “Top 15 Internet Crimes,” percentage change from 2017 to 2018 was calculated by: ((2018 value – 2017 value)/2017 value)*100. The same calculation was used per state.

Fair Use Statement

Knowledge is power, and power on the internet is extremely valuable. Share the results of our survey far and wide, and cite us when mentioning our findings. Be sure only to use this content for noncommercial purposes, though.

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