Protecting your personal information in cyberspace is a must to avoid identity theft and other serious crimes. It is critical to keep your firewall, anti-virus software, and web browser up to date. However, don’t forget that if you become a target, it is equally important to report the incident(s) to Internet crime prevention organizations.
If you are the victim—or suspect you are the victim—of an Internet crime, register a complaint immediately. Why? In the case of suspected pedophilia or online stalking, reporting the episode can launch a police or federal investigation.
If you witness organized software piracy or improper marketing to children, your report will contribute to statistics used to enact legislation, raise awareness in the community, and help officials take action to keep the event from happening again.
If you suffer from hacking, a virus, spyware, phishing scams, spam, or consumer fraud, law enforcement and government agencies will use your information to investigate and identity hackers and thieves, uncover new scams, and spot fraud trends. These reports can also be used in court if you decide to take legal action against the violators.
What to Do If You Become a Target
More than a nuisance, hacking, viruses, spyware, phishing scams, and spam can lead to identity theft and other serious crimes. You can help stop them in their tracks. Below are some suggestions of what to do when you become a target.
- If your computer gets hacked or infected by a virus, disconnect from the Internet. Scan it with fully updated anti-virus software and update your firewall. McAfee has the industry standard.
Be sure to notify your Internet Service Provider (ISP) of the breach, and file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- If you discover your computer has spyware on it, report this via the FTC Consumer Complaint Form. Again, McAfee has a software solution that will get rid of the spyware and enable you to protect yourself from future attacks
- If you receive spam or emails that are “phishing” for personal information, forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve been scammed by a phishing scheme, please notify the FTC and take more precaution against identity theft.
Child Sexual Exploitation
Parental involvement and due diligence are critical factors in preventing child sexual exploitation offline as well as online. Make sure you are aware of what your child is doing online at all times.
Today’s youth are constantly interacting in cyberspace, chatting, blogging, sending instant messages, or visiting social networking sites like MySpace, Friendster, and many more. Predators use these venues to target kids from all backgrounds. Your kids can learn to socialize safely. Make them aware of the dangers, and set basic rules. The FBI’s A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety is a great resource for safety tips and advice.
Parental control software is an invaluable tool in shielding your kids. It provides important filtering and blocking features, and is included in many comprehensive PC software solutions. Visit the Product Comparison Guide for recommendations.
If you suspect pedophilia or other inappropriate activity, you must react quickly:
- Terminate the child’s contact with the suspect
- If related to a networking site or chat room, contact the monitor and ISP
- Use the service’s flagging feature or reporting system to warn others (refer to the service’s security or abuse guidelines in Preferences and Help menus). When someone is reported, their warning level increases and, with enough warnings, the user can be restricted or banned from the service
- Contact your local police department and the nearest FBI field office
- Report the event to the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children
Cyberstalking is the use of email, chat rooms, instant messages, or discussion groups to stalk or harass a person with repeated threatening behavior including bullying, hate mail, and threats.
If you or your child is being stalked or threatened online, the safety organization CyberAngels recommends the following steps:
- Log off immediately and stay offline for at least 24 hours. Do not reply to anything else the harasser says
- Completely change your online identity including everything in your profiles (email, online services, social media, newsgroups, etc.)
- Contact the harasser's ISP and file a complaint. To find the sender's ISP, choose to display full headers in your email application. You'll find a "Received:" line in the email message that contains an 8- to 12-digit number separated by periods. You can run a "Who Is" search on this number to find the sender's ISP. Geektools provides such a utility
- Keep as evidence all emails from the harasser and any replies you sent. In chat or instant message clients, keep logs of the stalker’s messages
- If you feel you or your family are in physical danger, or the stalker knows where you live, contact the local police and the nearest FBI field office
Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft
Internet fraud and identity theft are the fastest growing crimes worldwide, according to industry experts. Strong PC security is essential for protecting the transfer of your personal information on the web. Check the Product Advisor to find a trusted solution. The FTC is a good resource on identity theft with prevention tips and resources.
If you become a victim of identity theft:
- Contact one of the three main credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union—and place a fraud alert on your file
- Close the fraudulent accounts. The FTC offers an ID theft affidavit form to use when disputing new accounts opened in your name
- File a police report
- File a complaint with the FTC Or, call the FTC hotline at 877–IDTHEFT
Companies use their web sites to target children online for consumer advertising and market research. Through games, prizes, and club memberships, they lure children into filling out detailed surveys about themselves and their families. The company then turns around and sells the information. Marketers will also bombard children with emails and ads, sometimes pretending to be the child’s favorite cartoon character.
Technology can help worried parents. ISPs such as AOL, FamilyClick, and MayberryUSA offer age-based levels of service appropriate for children. The McAfee Internet Security includes a Parental Controls with indispensable parental controls. It filters web sites and offensive content, blocks the transmission of personal information, blocks ads, and monitors browsing.
If you feel that your child has been scammed or inappropriately targeted by a company, contact the FTC or call 877-FTC-HELP.
Common cross-border e-commerce complaints include online shopping, international lotteries and auctions, and foreign money offers. If an unsolicited email offer sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
To report a cross-border scam:
- File a complaint at EConsumer.gov. This is a joint project of consumer protection agencies from 20 nations, and is focused on ending international scams
- If you’ve been involved in a foreign money offer scheme, contact your local Secret Service Field Office
Your complaint may not necessarily be investigated by a specific country, so you must work yourself to find resolution. Econsumer.gov has information about resolving the complaint without legal action, such as using an escrow service, reversing a charge payment, and locating a third-party dispute resource.
If you find evidence of pirated music, games, software, or movies on your child’s computer, take it seriously. Remove the content or file and then talk with your child about the consequences. Pirated downloads can infect the computer with a virus or spyware, and parents or youths can be sued or hit with fines by corporations for violating copyright laws.
Report incidents of organized software piracy to the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) or call 800-388-7478. The Business Software Association (BSA) also works to stamp out piracy. Contact them on their U.S. hotline at 888-NOPIRACY, or find links to international offices on their web site.
In all cases of Internet crime, react swiftly and decisively, and report the incident immediately.