Staying cyber safe: FBI Richmond holds cyber security round table

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 10:15 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Cyber fraud is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says is causing headaches for people all over the country, especially in the Commonwealth.

Thursday, cyber squad experts from the Richmond Field Office of the FBI held a cyber security roundtable, providing tips on how individuals and businesses could partner with the FBI to recognize and protect themselves from cyber threats.

“We want to identify, disrupt and dismantle the organizations that want to do harm to our partners,” said cyber squad expert Chris Cope. “It’s important for people to be very cyber-conscious and trust us to come in and at least be that partner and resource to help them mitigate any sort of incidents they may have.”

The FBI said that internet crime accounted for $6.9 billion in losses nationwide last year. Of that, there were 3,729 complaints for ransomware, which accounted for nearly $50 million in losses among victims. Cryptocurrency accounted for $1.6 billion in losses, stemming from 34,202 complaints.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams are among the fastest growing cyber crimes in the country, increasing 60% from 2020 to 2021. Last year, there were 19,954 complaints for BEC, accounting for $2.4 billion in losses.

Statewide, Virginians lost hundreds of billions of dollars in cyber fraud in 2021. Ransomware accounted for $543,500 in losses, while BECs accounted for more than $65,400,117. This is the same crime that cost VCU and other universities and entities across three states a combined total of $5 million.

In a statement, a spokesperson with the university said that in addition to improving its cyber security measures to keep from falling victim to BEC scams again, it was also able to recover a large portion of the money wired overseas.

Special agent in charge of the Richmond Field Office, Stanley Meador, says that while it can be very difficult to recover stolen funds from cyber fraud, the likelihood of getting that money back significantly improves if the incident is reported.

“Often time, we may have the resources to help you work through it, but we can’t help you if we don’t know about it or if we don’t have that relationship where you can pick up the phone and call us,” Meador said.

“If you file it quickly, the FBI, working through our partners across the country or internationally, may be able to stop that wire transfer and be able to recover the money or a partial amount of the money,” Meador said. “But you have to act fast.”

Meador says if you become a victim of cybercrime, your best bet is to file a report through, which aggregates cyber fraud reported on the website and then connects those incidents to a recovery assets team. In 2021, out of more than 1,700 incidents, the recovery asset team had a 75% success rate in freezing stolen funds before they could be lost.

The best way to protect yourself is to be proactive. The FBI encourages people to have an incident response plan for cyber attacks. This is essentially a plan to protect your private information by providing the required controls for incident handling, reporting, and monitoring to agents should you become the victim of a cyber attack.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Be careful with what information you share online or on social media. By openly sharing things like pet names, schools you attended, links to family members, and your birthday, you can give a scammer all the information they need to guess your password or answer your security questions.
  • Don’t click on anything in an unsolicited email or text message asking you to update or verify account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own (don’t use the one a potential scammer is providing), and call the company to ask if the request is legitimate.
  • Carefully examine the email address, URL, and spelling used in any correspondence. Scammers use slight differences to trick your eye and gain your trust.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Set up two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication on any account that allows it, and never disable it.
  • Verify payment and purchase requests in person if possible or by calling the person to make sure it is legitimate. You should verify any change in an account number or payment procedures with the person making the request.
  • Be especially wary if the requestor is pressing you to act quickly.