BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Although it seems less common, cyber crimes (criminal activities that involve computers and online networks) have seen a tremendous rise in popularity in recent years. Activities like phishing, online theft and harassment, while not always reported, are huge dangers in the United States.

In 2021 by itself, the FBI received 847,376 complaints regarding cyber crimes, with potential losses of over $6.9 billion for unwitting victims. And although the US is a country with some of the most strict laws against cyber crime in the world, it’s still widespread throughout the country….and as recent research shows, here in North Dakota, these crimes can be extremely expensive for their victims.

A study performed by VPN company SurfShark reviewed the most recent data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IB3) to collect the number of cybercrime victims, the number of perpetrators, and the total losses from both each state and the entire country. In this survey, they discovered that of the 50 states, these crimes pay much more than anywhere else. The average cybercrime victim in North Dakota loses $31,711 per scam — the largest average loss of any state and more than double the typical amount that a cybercriminal steals during an operation.

It is worth noting that, while it has no effect on the average amount of money lost, North Dakota defines computer fraud and computer crime as different crimes, meaning the penalty can vary. By Surfshark’s definitions, a computer crime is where someone gains unauthorize access to a computer or network in order to cause damage to or alter it, as opposed to computer fraud (which is the use of a computer or network to deceive and defraud people and businesses).

The study also discovered that among all cyber scandals, the most common and expensive ones that North Dakotans fall victim to are fake relationship scams — those who claims to be family, friends, or romatntic relationships online. These are so rampant that they account for a loss of $12.1 million from internet users statewide, around 50% of all money lost to cyber crimes in the state.

It’s easy to blame anonymous people from all over the world for acts of digital deception, but a suprising amount of it takes place in our own backyard: Surfshark’s research also indicates that for every 100,000 internet users in the states, there are 59 perpetrators of cybercrimes. North Dakota’s average number is only slightly below this national average, with 53 criminals per capita.

As for who are the most common victims of cyber crime, the targets in North Dakota are the same as they are all around the country: primarily senior citizens. This is believed to be due to the idea that they are less aware of online security, and thus open to the dangers of the internet. Some younger people are also susceptible to scams, however — Americans aged 40-49, despite only making up 12.4% of the US Population, accounted for 20.8% of all cybercrime victims last year.

Just because these numbers are concerning, though, doesn’t mean there are not steps to take to defend against cyber criminals. When browsing the internet, be sure to avoid clicking on suspicious links, keep your firewall up-to-date, and refuse offers and payments from groups you do not know.

The full study listing information from each state is available on this page.