South Carolinians reported more than $100 million in losses to online scams in 2022
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - If you own a business, looking to buy a home, or thinking about investing, you could fall victim to the most common scams found by the FBI.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recently released its 2022 internet crime report.
It shows South Carolinians lost more than $100 million to online scams last year. This is a sharp increase from the $42 million lost by South Carolinians in 2021.
The top three schemes people lost the most money to were business email compromises, investment fraud and real estate fraud.
Business email compromises cost South Carolinians $46.8 million in losses. The FBI said criminals target large corporations and businesses through emails ultimately trying to get your money into a fraudulent account.
Ways to protect yourself from business email compromises:
· Do not click on any links from emails that look suspicious.
· Do not click on emails or text messages asking you to update or verify account information.
· Verify payment or purchase requests in person if possible.
· Be careful what you download and never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know
Next, investment fraud cost South Carolinians $13.5 million in losses. The FBI said it is now seeing thieves use cryptocurrency to try and defraud you.
FBI spokesperson Kevin Wheeler said when it comes to investment fraud, most criminals promise a low-risk or no-risk investment, so a red flag should go up immediately.
“You’re never going to have a situation where there is no risk in any investment, so we want to ask them to thoroughly research any investment opportunities. Bring someone else into the picture and see if it’s something that is worthwhile, and do your research to make sure it’s not a scam,” said Wheeler.
Ways to protect yourself from investment fraud:
· Do your homework and research any investment opportunity.
· Never rush into an investment opportunity. If you are rushed or told not to discuss it with others, you’re being scammed.
· There is no such thing as a guaranteed return.
Finally, real estate fraud cost South Carolinians $12.4 million in losses. Wheeler said real estate fraud is when criminals will post properties or homes that are for sale online, but they do not actually own that property. Once you wire them the money, they disappear.
Ways to protect yourself from real estate fraud:
· Check property records.
· Contact the property owner.
· Do your research before handing over any money.
Wheeler said catching these criminals isn’t always easy, so educating you on how to avoid scams is important.
“A lot of this activity happens overseas and in some cases, we’re not able to get the money back for people, so it’s important on the front end that we continue to educate people about dangers that are online and give them the tools necessary that they need to make sure they’re not falling victim to scams,” said Wheeler.
The 2022 IC3 report shows seniors 60 and older continue to be the largest target of online scams reporting more than $35.6 million in losses.
Wheeler said the FBI is continuing its Elder Fraud Initiative that was started last year where they go out into communities to educate seniors about scams.
If you believe you’ve been scammed make sure to report it to the police and the FBI’s IC3 center by clicking here.
Copyright 2023 WMBF. All rights reserved.