Everything You Need to Know About the Terrifying Crimes the FBI Investigates

The FBI has a big job to do, and its strategies are constantly evolving for good reason. Today, American society faces drastically different threats than we did decades ago. Thankfully, though, the FBI knows how to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of criminal activity.

Interested in hearing more about said threats and criminal activity? Then stick around to discover everything you need to know about the nine types of terrifying crimes the FBI investigates.

Crime: Terrorism

FBI Agents collect evidence in Austin FedEx bombing

The top priority is protection from terrorism. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Not surprisingly, the FBI’s top priority is protecting the U.S. from both domestic and international terrorist attacks. And while the bureau has numerous strategies in place, its most important asset is the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which enable federal, state, and local agencies to work together in the fight against terrorism.

Next: Here’s how the terrorism landscape has changed over time. 

How the threat of terrorism is changing

If your see something say something sign at the airport

The FBI is relying on people to report issues. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Without question, the attacks on 9/11 kicked everyone into high alert. Since then, the FBI has continued to monitor threats of terrorism. According to the bureau, there are three key factors at play:

  • The internet
  • The use of social media
  • Homegrown violent extremists

That said, it’s important to protect yourself by being aware of your surroundings, not sharing personal information, and saying something if you see suspicious activity.

Next: This division has been around since the early days of the FBI.  

Crime: Counterintelligence

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

It’s not just looking for Julius and Ethel-type spies. | Roger Higgins/New York World-Telegram and the Sun/Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

Created in 1917 — nine years after the FBI was founded — the counterintelligence division has long been responsible for combating national security threats. During the Cold War, for instance, images of old-school spies from the Soviet Union come to mind. But times have changed since those days.

Now, espionage involves stolen trade secrets of U.S. businesses and data theft from computer networks. As these types of threats continue to change, so too does the FBI’s counterintelligence strategies.

Next: It’s classified information, but here’s what we do know. 

How the FBI’s counterintelligence program works


It helps protect America’s secrets. | krbokhin/iStock/Getty Images

Of course, the FBI can’t give away its secrets, but it can divulge its overall goals. And the overall goals of the FBI’s counterintelligence program, in particular, cover a wide array of responsibilities, including:

  • Protecting U.S. intelligence secrets
  • Working with government partners to reduce the risk of espionage
  • Protecting the nation’s sensitive information in sectors such as economic, financial, and public health

Next: This one hits close to home for far too many people.

Crime: Cyber attacks

FBI Cyber crime

Cyber attacks are a growing threat. | FBI

As one of the most unnerving crimes on the list, cyber crime is a very real threat in our everyday lives. Large-scale corporations and at-home computer networks alike are at risk. After all, a person’s computer is where tons of personal, professional, and financial information lives, which makes it an ideal access point for cyber terrorists.

Next: Here’s the best way to avoid becoming a victim.  

How to protect yourself from cyber terrorism


There are ways to protect yourself. | supershabashnyi/iStock/Getty Images

Protecting yourself from hackers is absolutely crucial. And the FBI has some tips on how to ensure you do just that. For starters, you should:

  • Keep your firewall turned on
  • Use antivirus software and antispyware technology
  • Use caution when downloading anything and turn your computer off when you’re not using it

Next: This costs the U.S. billions of dollars a year.

Crime: Public corruption

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich pauses while speaking to the media at the Dirksen Federal Building

It investigates corruption. | Frank Polich/Getty Images

Public corruption poses a major threat to our way of life, so it makes sense that it’s the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority. According to the website,

It can affect everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected to how verdicts are handed down in courts to how public infrastructure such as roads and schools are built.

The FBI’s public corruption department investigates public officials who’ve been suspected of violating federal law, oversees investigations of fraud, and investigates election fraud. And that’s not all; the U.S. government and taxpaying citizens spend billions of dollars a year fighting public corruption.

Next: There are various forms of public corruption. 

Types of public corruption


The FBI investigates drug trafficking across the border. | Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Public corruption comes in a variety of forms, and the list is long. So long, in fact, that the FBI created the International Corruption Unit in 2008 as a result of the rising number of global fraud investigations against the U.S. government.

As far as public corruption cases are concerned, here are just a few examples of the different types that exist:

  • Prison corruption (when inmates attempt to “turn” prison officials)
  • Border corruption (including drug trafficking and alien smuggling)
  • Election crimes (such as a corporation giving corporate money to a federal candidate)

Next: This is something everyone deserves. 

Crime: Civil rights violations

the black and white sign outside Pulse Nightclub against a blue sky and a palm tree

Hate crimes fall under the FBI. | Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Protecting the civil rights of Americans is of the utmost importance, and its a job the FBI takes seriously. That said, the civil rights program has four subprograms:

  • Hate crimes
  • Color of law violations (when law enforcement officers and other officials abuse their power)
  • Human trafficking
  • Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act violations (This act “makes it a federal crime to injure, intimidate, or interfere with those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services …”)

Next: Any fan of The Sopranos is familiar with this crime. 

Crime: Transnational organized crime

Mafia member arrest

The mafia still exists. | FBI

When you hear about transnational organized crime groups, the mafia typically comes to mind. Despite the glorified nature of characters like Tony Soprano, organized crime groups are a serious threat. They prioritize power and money over all else, and will commit just about any crime to obtain just that, including bribery, money laundering, and murder for hire.

Next: There are groups right here in the U.S. 

Mafia presence in the U.S.

Al Capone mugshot

The mafia didn’t end with Al Capone. | United States Bureau of Prisons/Wikimedia Commons

Italian organized crime groups “are some of the most notorious and widespread of all criminal societies,” the FBI reports. And not surprisingly, there are active groups right here in the U.S., including:

  • The Sicilian Mafia
  • The Camorra
  • The ‘Ndrangheta
  • The Sacra Corona Unita (United Sacred Crown)

Next: Despite their name, these are not victimless crimes. 

Crime: White-collar

Martin Shkreli CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical, is brought out of 26 Federal Plaza by law enforcement officials after being arrested for securities fraud

See Martin Shkreli for an example of a fraudster. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

White-collar criminals don’t match the typical rough and tumble image often associated with most other criminals. But they’re criminals, nonetheless, and their actions have grave consequences. In fact, just one scam “can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three),” the FBI says.

Next: These crimes are aplenty.  

White-collar crimes the FBI investigates

Bernie madoff in a black suit getting out of a car

Bernie Madoff is the prime example. | Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

When it comes to white-collar crimes, it’s business professionals and government officials who are the ones breaking the law. They’re motivated by money, and use deception and concealment for financial gain. They don’t however, rely on the threat of physical violence.

The long list of white-collar crimes includes:

  • Health care fraud
  • Securities and commodities fraud (e.g. Ponzi schemes)
  • Embezzlement

Next: Some cases call for the FBI.

Crime: Violent crimes

federal agents examine rancho tahoma elementary school

It handles mass shootings and bank robberies, among others. | Elijah Nouvelage/AFP/Getty Images

When violent crimes threaten American society, the FBI gets involved. Not only does the bureau bring expertise, it relieves the local authorities when they need assistance most. So, what types of crimes warrant FBI involvement? Mass killings, sniper murders, and serial killings, along with gang-related crimes, bank robberies, and crimes committed on Native American land.

Next: This is a scary term.

Crime: Weapons of mass destruction

Chemical weapons

The division handles chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. | Nigel Treblin/Getty Images

There’s no grey area here. Weapons of mass destruction is a terrifying term. And thankfully, the FBI is prepared to deal with threats posed by them. In 2006, the FBI established the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, a division dedicated to handling chemical, biological, and nuclear material.

So, even though you’re now an expert (kind of) on all things FBI-related, keep in mind that things are always changing. To stay up to date with FBI-related news and everything short of classified information, click here.

Read more: FBI’s Most Wanted: The Revealing Stories Behind the Men the FBI is Searching For

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