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How to support cybercrime victims

An increasingly connected society has created a breeding ground for criminal activity that often goes undetected

The effects of online crime can be devastating and figuring out how to get help is confusing.

By Kristen Judge, Police1 Contributor

The ever-growing digital world we live in has created many new opportunities for criminals. Today, computers are small enough to be handheld and are found in things we use every day, like automobiles and even refrigerators. According to Statista, there are more than 26.6 billion connected devices in use today, and that number is rising significantly every year. Experts predict more than 75.5 billion devices will be connected by 2025. This connectivity creates a breeding ground for criminal activity that often goes undetected.

An underreported crime

The effects of online crime can be devastating and figuring out how to get help is confusing. Millions of Americans are impacted by crimes like identity theft, romance scams and sextortion, but only approximately 15% of the victims report their crime to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). In 2017, the 300,000 reports that were filed with the IC3 totaled personal losses of more than $1.4 billion.

Cybercrime affects people of all ages, however seniors who often have more savings than younger generations show a higher median loss of $1,092 compared to $400 for those in their twenties.

Cybercrime poses both physical and financial threats

Cybercrime can cause significant financial losses, but its impact on physical safety cannot be ignored.

Technology allows abusers to reach domestic violence victims easier and more often and stalking by an intimate partner has been linked to an increased risk of homicide.

Studies show that 68% of women experienced stalking within the 12 months prior to a homicide. Technology gives abusers a constant opportunity to target their victim through text messages, GPS tracking and threats on social media.

Connecting victims to resources, educating LE

Founded in 2017, the Cybercrime Support Network (CSN) aims to give a voice to those impacted by cybercrime.

With federal funding from the DOJ Office for Victims of Crime, CSN has partnered with United Way 2-1-1 centers and law enforcement in Rhode Island, Central Florida and Western Michigan to implement pilot programs to connect victims to resources, increase reporting and address the lack of information available to law enforcement and industry with a national reporting structure.

The pilots will utilize call, text and chat platforms available through United Way 2-1-1 in each area. Currently, 2-1-1 provides resources for human service issues like housing, utilities and food. Through the partnership with CSN, the programming will expand to provide assistance for cybercrime victims.

Program objectives include training for 2-1-1 specialists and 9-1-1 dispatchers in how to recognize cybercrime and properly direct victims to appropriate resources. By dispatching or transferring these calls out of emergency services centers, 9-1-1 operators can focus on critical response and dispatch for law enforcement, fire and rescue as intended.

The 2-1-1 call specialists will work with the cybercrime victim not only to find the resources to recover from the crime, but also to reinforce online security best practices to reduce revictimization.

As CSN educates the public on ways to get help, the expectation is that overall calls for help with cybercrime incidents will increase.

The 2-1-1 call specialists will also assist individuals or small businesses who desire to report cybercrime. With approximately 85% of crimes unreported, the magnitude of the issue is massively underrepresented in legislation and law enforcement funding. CSN hopes to change that by increasing the number of reported incidents across the country.

National victim resource database

For over two years, CSN convened a coalition of federal, state and local law enforcement, academia, private sector and national-nonprofit leadership to plan, gain an understanding of, and develop an approach for addressing the unmet needs of law enforcement and the public as it relates to cybercrime. Collaboration with all levels of law enforcement has allowed CSN to begin creating a map of how to direct not only the victims, but also law enforcement and prosecutors as they work with cases that span jurisdictional lines. CSN is creating a national victim resource database that will provide resource and referral information by zip code and crime type.

Working together we can bring change by providing front-line responders with resources and tools to address the ever-growing problem of cybercrime. Implementing a user-friendly reporting process that creates more accurate statistics regarding the magnitude of the problem will provide ammunition to approve legislation and fund law enforcement staffing to meet the problem head on. This initiative is a collaborative effort that will need participation from many partners to succeed. The Cybercrime Support Network is honored to facilitate that collaboration and participation to make a real difference and promote a positive change in behavior.

About the author

Kristin Judge was elected to serve as a Washtenaw County Commissioner in 2008 and supported the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in growing cybersecurity outreach to state and local government officials. After elected office, she worked at the Center for Internet Security, focusing on connecting state and local governments to federal services and technology needed to improve cyber security.

As director of government affairs at the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), Kristin worked with Google, FTC, FBI, SBA, DHS, NIST, congressional leaders and other key stakeholders across the country to educate consumers and businesses how to protect sensitive data. To address the needs of cybercrime victims, Kristin founded the nonprofit Cybercrime Support Network and works with federal, state and local law enforcement and consumer protection agencies to help consumers and small businesses affected by cybercrime.