Cyber crime was second pandemic last year ::

Protect yourself from online attacks that threaten your identity, your files, your system, and your financial well-being.

A new FBI report shows the coronavirus wasn’t all that was spreading like wildfire in 2020 – so was cyber crime.

For example, phishing scams. where criminals try to get bank or personal information via email, text or phone, more than doubled last year, with 241,000 complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Overall, complaints jumped 70 percent.

Cyber security expert Neal Bridges, an Air Force veteran who now works for computer networking company INE, said the jump in cyber crime in 2020 is concerning but not surprising.

“We don’t take cyber security seriously enough,” Bridges said. “It is very difficult to prosecute cyber criminals, and there’s a lot of return on investment from a monetary perspective.”

North Carolina accounted for more than 12,000 complaints to the FBI center, with people losing more than $69 million. Almost 2,500 people age 60 or older were victimized, paying out almost $28 million to criminals, according to the report.

“A lot of the tech fraud scams and some of the phishing attacks that are being targeted are targeting senior citizens,” Bridges said.

Cyber crimes are up nearly 1000%. Learn how to protect yourself, tonight at 5 on WRAL

Non-payment or non-delivery schemes, essentially a bogus online purchase, was the most common cyber crime in North Carolina, according to the FBI report. That was followed by personal data breaches, where hackers get identifying information about people, and confidence or romance scams, where people are asked to send money for a loved one or a potential lover.

“It’s OK to question if something doesn’t sound right, especially when it comes to your livelihood, your hard-earned money, whether it’s your retirement or your bank account, even your Social Security numbers,” Bridges said.

In addition to being more skeptical, Bridges suggested using multi-factor authentication so account entry isn’t so easy and frequently changing passwords, which are currency for cyber thieves.