Treasury Department: Investment fraud schemes cost consumers billions of dollars

Investment fraud schemes have surpassed business email compromise as the leading online scam in terms of dollar losses reported to the FBI, with cyber-enabled investment fraud costing U.S. citizens $3.3 billion in 2022 alone, the Treasury Department said today in its annual National Risk Assessments for Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Proliferation Financing. The report also includes a special focus on check fraud, noting that the number of suspicious activity reports related to the crime increased by 94% between 2021 and 2022.

The assessment details recent trends in the fentanyl crisis, foreign and domestic terrorist attacks and related financing, increased potency of ransomware attacks, the growth of professional money laundering, and the continued digitization of payments and financial services. As for the increase in investment schemes, the Treasury Department said that trend is related in part to the increasing use of digital assets. It also pointed to “pig butchering,” a type of romance scheme in which victims are often told to invest in virtual assets that are later stolen by the scammers.

As for check fraud, the Treasury Department noted there was a 139% increase in reports of high-volume mail theft from mail receptacles over the past four fiscal years. It also noted there have been several cases of money laundering tied to check fraud, including a 2022 case where bank accounts were opened using a fake passport to receive checks from accounts with insufficient funds. Fraudsters then withdrew those funds before the checks cleared, the report said.