Victim information proves key in FBI cybercrime investigations

Updated: Mar. 15, 2023 at 3:00 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Avoiding a scam is one thing, but finding the fraudsters behind the crimes takes time, patience, and help from the victims themselves.

Criminals caught Rob Naugle off guard about a year ago when he went to sell a camera on Facebook Marketplace.

“You know, I thought I was too smart for that,” Naugle said.

He is out nearly $1,800 dollars after scammers tricked him into overnighting the camera to an address across the county.

“I was moving fast. And it’s not what I expected. Like, it wasn’t like a conventional scam,” Naugle said. “Or at least I thought it was a little bit more sophisticated.”

The criminal asked all the right questions and even spoofed an email to make it look like a money transfer from Zelle was headed his way.

“I was just mad. I was angry and then kind of felt stupid for a while,” Naugle said.

Those types of emotions often keep many victims from telling their stories and reporting their cases to investigators.

“Don’t be embarrassed, give yourself some grace, and step up and report that to the FBI, because that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to put investigations together,” FBI Agent Jesse Schibilia said.

Schibilia works with FBI Richmond division out of its Roanoke office. He specializes in cybercrimes. Schibilia has been with the Bureau for more than a decade and said the criminals keep getting smarter.

“Over 10 years, it’s unrecognizable from what it was when I started doing investigations,” Schibilia said. “It’s a cat-and-mouse game. They get better at evading us and then we get better at finding them and so they get better at evading us.”

Within five years, from 2018 to 2022, complaints about internet scams more than doubled. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) tracks the data, but it’s not clear exactly why there’s been such a boost.

“It’s possibly because we’re seeing more attacks, more victimizations. But we can’t really say for certain why specifically that is that we’re seeing more complaints, more loss,” Schibilia said.

While an individual complaint might not be resolved immediately, the information given to IC3 helps agents like Schibilia put the puzzle pieces together.

“I had somebody call me recently, where he lost a very significant amount of money. And I looked into it, and I found dozens of other people who were victimized by what appeared to be the same group,” he said.

That investigation is still underway, but it highlights the FBI’s process. The public’s stories are the key to holding scammers responsible.

“Work with us to try and make it better for you. Work with us to try and make it better for those that come after you who are also victims, and who have come before you who are victims to potentially the same frauds,” Schibilia said.

That collaboration is the only way justice can be served, and it gives victims like Rob Naugle a little hope.

“I think that’s valuable, and I probably should have reported it. I guess I still can I have the receipts and everything, so I know when exactly what went down,” Naugle said.

The information shared will hopefully give investigators the upper hand the next time a digital fraud begins a new scheme.