PORTLAND (AP) — In 2015, $220 million was lost to wire fraud in the United States. In 2019, losses will surpass $1.5 billion, according to WFG National Title Insurance Company.
In the past, attempts to trick people were often clumsy, FBI agents told journalists on Friday. Now they can be sophisticated. If people are asked via email to transfer money under a deadline, they should not rush and instead call a known number of the person the email is purportedly from and confirm the request, the agents said.
“The emails have gotten well-crafted and quite detailed. They’re highly tailored to that particular victim,” said Gabriel Gundersen, an FBI supervisory special agent with the Oregon Cyber Task Force. “It’s a social engineering piece, where they’re coercing a victim to do something based on an artificial agenda or an artificial timeline.”
In one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history, federal authorities in Los Angeles announced an indictment in August charging 80 people, most of them Nigerians, with stealing $6 million in an email scam and money laundering network. George Chamberlin, assistant special FBI agent in charge of the Portland division, said such cases can take years to develop.
Partnerships between victims, local law enforcement, the FBI and its field offices overseas, and law enforcement in other countries is critical to combatting this transnational crime, said Loren Cannon, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Portland office.
In Oregon, losses surpassed $24 million from computer-related crimes from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 of this year. For all of last year, $23.5 million was stolen, the FBI said.