COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Crime trends are changing during this pandemic. FBI data released in September found that property crimes, in particular thefts and burglaries, fell nationwide by about 8 percent in the first half of the year.
But during that same time period, cyber-crimes have surged with victims losing money hundreds of millions of dollars in online scams.
This week, the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado announced a partnership with Pikes Peak Area Crime Stoppers to better protect local consumers from cyber-crimes and scams.
"We've seen a 24 percent rise in scams just in this year alone," said Jonathan Liebert, CEO of the BBB of Southern Colorado.
He explained that most of the scams are pandemic related and have cost American consumers $145 million this year.
The BBB has launched a crowd-sourced Scam Tracker to help consumers spot ongoing attempts at scams and fraud in real-time.
"When you pull up the website, it looks like a heat map, and what's cool is, you can kind of zoom-in, zoom-out; you can do keyword searches on here and it'll pull up different types of scams," Liebert explained.
He said the more common scams have included employment scams with job offers that are too good to be true. Other popular scams involve online shopping offer with outlandish discounts, and more recently, scams against people looking for pets.
The scams frequently involve an unsolicited email with a web link. Clicking the link will download malware to the user's computer or phone.
"The thing about scammer is that they prey on fear and uncertainty," Liebert said. "And with 2020, we've kind of got that going on in a major way."
The vast majority of online scams originate in foreign countries. So, the chances of prosecuting the criminals responsible are slim. Liebert hopes the Scam Tracker will empower people to avoid becoming victims in the first place.