AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - 2022 is officially here. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says now is a good time to get up to speed on protecting yourself online. Financial losses and cyber crimes are expected to trend upward again this year.

This year, we can expect all the standard scams, like phishing emails and spoofed phone calls. However, Special Agent in Charge of the Georgia Cyber Crimes Center, Steven Foster, says working from home scams are likely the biggest threat.

“They use people who may believe they are working at home to use their bank accounts to funnel money through victims through their bank accounts and then on to criminals overseas.” said Foster.

The money talks.  In 2020, losses statewide were approximately $700M. Foster believes we’ll see that number increase.

 “That’s for Georgia, the citizens, businesses and government agencies combined. So, Georgia is looking at upwards of a billion dollars in 2021.”

A big motivator for cyber crime is lower risk for a bigger payout.

“An average take in a bank robbery is less than $4,000. The average take in a cyber crime is almost $80,000. So, you don't have to go into the bank, you don't have to be seen, you don't even have to be in the jurisdiction where the crime is taking place to be able to make 20 times the amount you could make in a bank robbery and almost no risk at all.”

The GBI is working to stop bad actors. There’s a Cyber Fraud Task Force that has been ongoing for nearly two years now. Once they intervene, it can make a big difference.

“It’s almost like a game of Jenga. If you can remove the middle man, if you can remove how the money flows, then the organization takes a hit and they have to find a different way to make money move.” explained Foster.

Secret service presence is also growing here in Augusta in order to reach beyond state lines. But, since many criminals are overseas, Foster says prevention is key. 

“I think going forward we need to make sure people understand that those basic things that they can do, just like locking your door when you leave, change your password on a regular basis.”

It’s estimated the losses we know about are only a seventh of the actual crime. Foster says that's because many cases simply aren't reported. If you become a victim of cyber crime, he says the single most important thing you can do is report it to IC3. If you report it within two to three days, you are more likely to get your money recovered. Foster says older adults are usually the biggest targets for cyber crimes. 

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