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FBI: Texans Lose Nearly $200 Million To Internet Fraud And Attacks In 2018


Cyber criminals stole $7.45 billion over the last five years — that’s around the same amount as the entire state budget of Iowa. Complaints to the FBI increase each year, and Texas businesses and residents continue to be one of the most frequent victims.

More than 25,000 Texans were victims of cyber crime last year, according to an FBI report out Monday. The state ranked second in number of victims behind California, with Texans losing nearly $200 million.

The FBI’s Internet crime website — found at — received more than 350,000 complaints last year, about 900 per day.

Special Agent Ray Martinez — who works in San Antonio’s cyber crime unit — isn’t complaining.

“Because that could be just a small blip on the radar. But it could be something that an investigation in Omaha has been waiting on. So there’s really no incident too small that we don’t want to know about,” he said.

$2.7 billion were stolen in 2018, nearly double the $1.4 billion stolen in 2017.

Business email compromises were the most lucrative for criminals. The strategy often requires criminals penetrate a legitimate company’s email server. From there they send out invoices or request wire transfers to clients with fraudulent account numbers. The scam was used 20,000 times last year and netted almost $1.3 billion.

Along with traditional methods of email, spoofed phone calls, and other scamming methods, the report highlights the importance of social media to commit fraud. More than $100 million was stolen using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and chat rooms.

The report highlights the popularity of cryptocurrency for fraudsters. Criminals requested payment in virtual currency for ransomware and other attacks and scams 36,477 times. The take was $182 million.

Despite the rising complaints and losses, the FBI has made gains in recovering money. Last February it launched its Recovery Asset Team or RAT. In just under a year, RAT recovered $192 million, or 75 percent of the total that team investigated.

According to the report, in one case the FBI successfully froze and recovered more than $1 million for an unnamed New Jersey town that was the victim of a BEC scam.

Other successful methods for extracting money detailed in the report were Confidence or Romance frauds, where a perpetrator convinces a victim they are friends, family or romantically engaged and convinces them to send money, items of value or to launder money for them. Criminals ripped off more than 18,000 people for an estimated $362 million using the ploy.

Paul Flahive can be reached via email or on Twitter @paulflahive.

Copyright 2020 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit .

Paul Flahive is the accountability reporter for Texas Public Radio. He has worked in public media across the country, from Iowa City and Chicago to Anchorage and San Antonio.