ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- There were more than COVID-19 cases on the rise in New York during 2020. Consumer fraud was also on the rise with far more reports in 2020 than in 2019 and with greater financial consequences.

Criminals used the pandemic to steal credit card numbers, extort money, and steal people’s identities, getting away with millions, based on reports from multiple government agencies both Federal and state.

Reports of identity theft in New York grew by 85% from 2019 to 2020, according to the State Comptroller’s Office review of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data on consumer fraud. The FTC received 107,929 reports of fraud last year in N.Y., up from 87,585 in 2019, according to its database.

“The era of COVID-19 has brought enormous suffering and persistent uncertainty to New Yorkers. Adding to both the financial and psychological pain of the pandemic is a dramatic increase in identity theft during the past year,” NYS Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli said.

Reports of fraud including identity theft and other reports were up by 67,959 from 2019 to 2020. They totaled 240,598, up from 172,639 the previous year. New Yorkers lost $50.9 million more in 2020 to fraud from the previous year as well. In 2020 they lost $174 million, compared to $123.1 million in 2019.

FTC’s New York fraud data

Reports of fraud87,585107,929
Total money loss $123.1M$174M
Average amount of money loss $375$300
Total reports of fraud, identity theft, and other reports172,639240,598
Source: FTC

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Cyber Crime Unit also reported an increase in fraudulent activity between last year and 2019. Reports of extortion soared to more than 500% from 734 complaints in 2019 to 3,906 in 2020, according to the FBI’s annual Internet Crime Reports.

Scammers use lottery, sweepstakes, or inheritance scams along with phishing scams to swindle New Yorkers out of 50% more money in 2020, to a total of $415,812,917. It put the state second in the U.S. for most money lost from fraud in 2020, according to the FBI. N.Y. had been number five on the list in 2019 with $198,765,769 in reported losses.

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center reports

Number of reports by fraud type

Fraud type20192020
Identity theft7421576
Non-payment or undelivered goods/services33956372
Incomplete complaints (no lead value)36386712
Source: FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2019 & 2020 annual report

Money loss by fraud type

Fraud type20192020
Identity theft$9,136,171$15,761,821
Non-payment or undelivered goods/services$10,436,555$8,074,599
Source: FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2019 & 2020 annual report

Scammers took further advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic preying on New Yorkers in fraudulent healthcare-related schemes that cost consumers $1,998,102. The cost of healthcare-related frauds in 2019 was a paltry $226,382.

In 2020, while the American public was focused on protecting our families from a global pandemic and helping others in need, cybercriminals took advantage of an opportunity to profit from our dependence on technology to go on an Internet crime spree. These criminals used phishing, spoofing, extortion, and various types of Internet-enabled fraud to target the most vulnerable in our society – medical workers searching for personal protective equipment, families looking for information about stimulus checks to help pay bills, and many others.

Crimes of this type are just a small part of what the FBI combats through our criminal and cyber investigative work. Key to our cyber mission is the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a trustworthy source for information on cybercriminal activity, and a way for the public to report directly to us when they suspect they are a victim of cybercrime.

Paul Abbate, Deputy Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Top five fraud scams by money loss in 2020

Fraud typeTotal money loss
Business email or email account compromise$268,343,363
Confidence fraud, romance$26,286,815
Corporate data breach$17,330,670
Non-payment or undelivered goods/services$16,997,357
Source: FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2020 annual report

Top five fraud scams by money loss in 2019

Fraud typeTotal money loss
Business email or email account compromise$112,212,230
Confidence fraud, romance$19,695,267
Government impersonation$17,848,643
Source: FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2019 annual report

Compromised business email or email accounts saw the highest financial losses of any fraud type in both 2019 and 2020 but with greater impact in 2020. Losses reported were $268,343,363 as opposed to $112,212,230 in 2019.

Confidence or romance fraud, also known as catfishing, moved up to rank number two for most money loss from its number three position in 2019. A reported $6,591,548 more was lost to catfishing scams in 2020.

Nationwide the FTC said financial loss from consumer fraud totaled $3.3 billion in 2020 compared to $1.8 billion in 2019.