According to the latest data on internet crimes compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alabama saw the single-highest average of losses to cybercrime per victim in 2022.
Research on the data published Friday by the online security company VPNpro found that victims of cybercrimes in Alabama lost, on average, $50,670 in 2022. A total of 4,893 victims were reported in Alabama that year for a combined loss of nearly $248,000,000.
While states such as New York and California saw much higher numbers of victims and total losses, the average loss per victim in Alabama – $50,670 – was far above the next-highest state of New York, whose victims lost an average of just under $31,000 in 2022.
The average loss of more than $50,000 to cybercrime victims in Alabama, according to Amanda Senn with the Alabama Securities Commission, is likely due to several outliers in which victims lost substantial amount of money.
“We have several victims that have lost millions, so the reported $50,000 loss reported could be because we’ve had several lose multimillions of dollars,” Senn told Alabama Daily News Monday. “I know we had a $12 million fraud… sad situation.”
State specific data compiled by the FBI found that age played a significant role in both the frequency of falling victim to cybercrimes, as well as the amount lost.
Of the 4,893 victims of cybercrime in Alabama reported in 2022, those aged 50-59 were the most common, and constituted 925, or nearly 19% of all cybercrime victims. Those over 60 were the second-most frequent victims, constituting 916, or 18.7% of all victims.
Despite those over 50 being the most frequent victims of cybercrime, Alabamians aged 30-39 saw, by far, the largest amount of money lost at $187.4 million, or 75.6% of all reported losses in 2022.
Senn told ADN victims range from young adults still in their teens to older professionals, and urged anyone who falls victim to a cybercrime to report the incident to the appropriate authorities.
“The victims of these crimes, they come from all walks of life; we’ve got doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, teenagers that lose money on shopping scams,” she said. “It’s important that people know it’s not just gullible people (that become victims to cybercrimes), because it happens to real professionals too.”
Sarunas Karbauskas, an cybersecurity expert with VPNpro, said in a press release that cybercrimes are more prevalent during the holiday season, particularly leading up to major shopping events like Black Friday.
“Online scams are a major issue for internet users, especially with the festive season coming up; criminals will look to take advantage of an influx of activity and will target those who are especially vulnerable to theft,” Karbauskas said.
“This may include older people who are unfamiliar with the warning signs, such as typos in a brand’s name, deals that are too good to be true or suspicious pop-up ads. It’s crucial that you don’t give out your personal information unless you’re absolutely sure who’s asking.”
Broken down further, the Alabama-specific data reveals that the most frequent tool used to facilitate cybercrimes were personal data breaches, where an individual’s personal information is collected, often through a phishing scheme, with 714 such instances.
General data breaches, which differ from personal data breaches in that a company or business, rather than an individual, had its cybersecurity compromised, accounted for the largest amount of losses at more than $182 million.
Jamie Harding, communications director of the nonprofit senior advocacy group AARP Alabama, told Alabama Daily News Monday that despite Alabama suffering the greatest average losses in the nation from cybercrimes, the data was still likely far below accurate, with cybercrimes in particular being heavily underreported.
“A lot of times, when I’ve spoken to people who have been victims of these crimes, they’re reluctant to report them, especially older folks; they don’t want their family to know, they don’t want anybody to think they’re not capable of managing their finances,” Harding said. “So when you talk about the statistics, we know that these crimes are vastly underreported because people feel embarrassed, and they shouldn’t be.”
Former Alabama House Rep. Paul DeMarco, a Republican who represented Mountain Brook from 2005 to 2014, sponsored a bill in 2012 creating the Digital Crime Act, which created criminal penalties for a variety of cybercrimes, including phishing, computer tampering and general computer crimes. Penalties under the Digital Crime Act range from a Class A misdemeanor for computer tampering, which includes the unauthorized collection of data, to a Class A felony for cybercrimes that result in the loss of more than $100,000.
Nearly half a million cybercrimes were reported in the United States in 2022, with an average loss per victim of around $18,300, and total losses exceeding $10 billion.
The Alabama chapter of AARP has offered the following tips to avoid becoming a victim to cybercrimes:
- Avoid following direct links to online stores from emails or social media; instead, type the name of the retailer into your web browser. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam.
- Buy gift cards from protected racks behind the store counter or purchase them directly from the retailer online and be sure to check them for any evidence of tampering.
- Make sure the charity seeking your donation is legitimate, and that your money will actually be used for good. Check out the charity on charitynavigator.org or give.org before donating.