The FBI is the primary United States federal agency responsible for combating cybercrime, and its Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) acts as a mechanism for victims and third parties to report suspected Internet-facilitated criminal activity.
There have been over 4 million complaints reported to the IC3 since its inception in May 2000. Between 2014 – 2018, over 1.5 million complaints were received (an average of over 300,000 per year) totalling USD $7.45 billion, signalling the drastic rise in cybercrime in recent years due to technological advancements such as encryption and virtual currencies, and an increased global internet penetration.
In addition to its reporting role, the IC3 also analyses and disseminates information for investigative and intelligence purposes, for law enforcement, and for public awareness, including its annual report which highlights the key trends and developments in cybercrime provided by the public. We take a look at some of the IC3´s key functions and initiatives as outlined in its 2018 Internet Crime Report.
IC3 specialist teams
In 2018, the IC3 established the Recovery Asset Team (RAT) to assist in the recovery of funds for victims involved in Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes by streamlining communications to financial Institutions. The RAT works within the Domestic Financial Fraud Kill Chain (DFFKC) – a partnership between law enforcement and financial entities, to recover fraudulent funds transferred by victims. In 2018, the IC3 RAT notified 56 field offices and 12 Legal Attachés of 1,061 DFFKC’s totalling $257,096,992, a recovery rate of 75%.
In the same year, the IC3 also created a new position of Victim Specialists-Internet Crimes (VSIC). The VSIC contact victims of internet crimes, provide crisis intervention, conduct needs assessments, and refer victims to resources and referrals when appropriate. In addition to supporting victims, this role also helps to prevent further victimisation, assists the asset recovery process, and allows for effective coordination with the local field office Victim Specialist.
How does the IC3 support law enforcement?
Law enforcement agencies can remotely access and search the IC3 database through the FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP).
LEEP provides law enforcement agencies, intelligence groups, and criminal justice entities centralised access to a wealth of resources, which can be used to strengthen case development for investigators and enhance information sharing between agencies. This web-based access additionally provides users the ability to identify and aggregate victims and losses within a jurisdiction.
Operation Wellspring (OWS) initiative
Operation Wellspring builds the cyber investigative capability and capacity of the state and local law enforcement community. Through close collaboration with FBI field offices, IC3 helps state and local law enforcement partners identify and respond to malicious cyber activity which may not meet federal investigative thresholds, through the training and development of Cyber Task Force (CTF) state and local officers.
The rise of cybercrime has seen the FBI take innovative approaches to addressing the problem. Not only does the FBI´s IC3 act as a crucial national reporting, intelligence and public awareness mechanism, but specialist teams and positions within the IC3 further support law enforcement operations (including at a state and local level), the recovery of cybercrime proceeds and the provision of assistance to victims of internet-facilitated crimes.