The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) was created on May 8, 2000 (then named the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, or IFCC) to gather data on a new but rapidly growing type of crime.
In its first full year of operation, the center received 49,711 complaints. Over the last 20 years, that figure has evolved to over 5 million reports of thefts, scams, frauds, and other crimes with an online nexus. Those crimes have resulted in over $10 billion in losses since 2015 alone.
“The FBI takes seriously all threats to American citizens, and diligently works to assess and mitigate those threats,” said Director Christopher Wray. “Over the last two decades, as threats in the cyber arena have evolved, the FBI has adapted to combat these new challenges. Threat mitigation continues to be a top priority within the FBI and reporting is a critical aspect of this process. The IC3 has allowed for increased reporting and information sharing, which often prevents further victimization, and enables us to hold the criminals behind the keyboards accountable for their crimes.”
The crimes catalogued by the IC3 have mirrored the evolution of the web across two decades—growing in sophistication and number as the web has become a central feature of daily life.
In 2001, the first full year of IC3 reporting, the most commonly reported crimes included internet auction fraud, non-delivery schemes, advance payment schemes, and credit card fraud.
Gradually, the landscape has broadened to more destructive and costly data breaches and network intrusions, ransomware, romance scams, and sophisticated financial crimes such as business email compromise.
The crimes reported to the IC3 also reflect scammers’ willingness to exploit various tragedies and disasters. The IC3 saw an uptick in reports around Hurricanes Rita and Katrina as well as after the Boston Marathon bombings.
In 2008, scammers tried to obtain banking information from Americans receiving stimulus checks during the economic downturn. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are working overtime—hawking fake cures and investments schemes, selling personal protective equipment without the inventory on hand, and looking to take advantage of a more concentrated online presence during a time of increased telework and distance learning.
“Criminals and scammers go where there is opportunity,” said the FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Matt Gorham. “Right now, they are exploiting a public health emergency to steal from and deceive people who are vulnerable, worried, or seeking vital supplies and assistance. As we collect and share information through the IC3, we hope to protect the American public from becoming victims of cyber crime and enable law enforcement to identify links and trends they may not otherwise be able to see.”
IC3 data has helped guide the FBI’s response to cyber-enabled crimes while educating the public and supporting state and local law enforcement with a searchable database of information.
In 2018, the IC3 assisted with the creation of the FBI’s Recovery Asset Team (RAT). The objective of this team was to streamline communication between financial institutions and FBI field offices to prevent criminals from successfully obtaining funds through fraudulent transactions. The RAT effectively recovered over $300 million in 2019 alone.
In 2019, the RAT was paired with a Money Mule team under the IC3’s Recovery and Investigative Development (RAID) team. This effort brought together law enforcement and financial institutions to use the data provided by the IC3 to gain a better understanding of the networks and methods used by cyber fraudsters resulting in the enhanced ability to identify criminals.
To report an online crime or view the IC3’s annual reports and public service announcements, visit ic3.gov.
For more information on common online crimes and prevention tips, visit the FBI’s Common Scams and Crimes page.