Community Voices

Crime Watch: Florida is No. 2 in nation for Internet-based criminal activity, reports FBI

Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell
Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

We often wonder what can be done with scams that arrive in our email or by telephone. I contacted our Crime Watch partner at the FBI, James Marshall, and here is what he had to say:

Hey! I just got an email from an International lottery processing company telling me I won a half a million dollars! The funds are being transferred to my account now. All I had to do was email my bank account information and wire a $3,500 fee to them. This is great!

Lucky day or Internet-based lottery scam?

What should you do if you are the victim of a scam or fraud on the Internet?

Report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 at www.ic3.gov.

The mission of IC3 is to provide the public with a reliable and convenient method to submit information about Internet-facilitated criminal activity to the FBI. In 2014, IC3 received 269,422 complaints from all 50 states with a dollar loss of more than $800 million.

Florida residents ranked second only to California for the number of complaints filed and by dollar amount lost (more than $52 million).

The types of cybercrimes reported include theft of intellectual property rights, computer intrusion, economic espionage, online extortion and international money laundering. The types of frauds schemes are just a diverse and include identity theft, phishing, spam, reshipping, auction fraud, payment fraud, counterfeit goods, romance scams and nondelivery of goods. (For more information on these scams, visit www.ic3.gov )

Internet crime is a global issue with criminals using an ever-increasing array of sophisticated online techniques that cross multiple jurisdictional boundaries. So, if this is the case, why even report a scam or a loss?

“Reporting cyber crime is critical for law enforcement agencies to be able to track, predict and ultimately prevent this type of crime,” said Jason Manar, Supervisory Special Agent of FBI Miami’s cybercrime squad. “We encourage victims to file a complaint online at www.ic3.gov. Information from victims helps us put together the pieces of the puzzle to shut down an ongoing Internet scam.

Last year, IC3 disseminated over 1,500 referrals to law enforcement agencies to investigate reports of Internet crime. Many of these referral packages included numerous complaints and cover a wide variety of schemes.

In addition to reporting an Internet crime on IC3, victims should take steps to mitigate further loss such as, contacting banks, credit card companies and/or credit bureaus to block accounts, freeze accounts, dispute charges or attempt to recover lost funds.

Just as you would report a home break-in or a stolen car, Internet crime needs to be reported, too. Filing a complaint is just a few clicks away on your computer. Just go to www.ic3.gov.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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