For all of the many benefits of the internet, it has almost always been a vehicle for scammers and criminals to abuse and exploit unexpecting internet users. This is still the case today: if anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the potential dangers of online exploitation, both because people are spending more time online due to lock downs, and because scammers are now tailoring their tactics towards issues related to this global health crisis (from potential treatment plans to unemployment and welfare benefits). Now more than ever, people must be prepared: not just to recognize potential scammers and cyber-criminals, but to alert the property authorities if they encounter one.
However, many people don’t know to go about reporting suspicious behavior online. Some might rightly think to contact their local authorities, but there are several government offices and organizations who specialize in helping people who have witnessed or been victimized by online criminals. Consider this a brief but helpful resource for who to contact regarding suspicious activities online.
If you encounter suspicious behavior, whether online or in person, you should contact local law enforcement right away. One of the major reasons that criminals get away is their victims are often too embarrassed to come forward. This is especially true with older internet users, as they’ll often withhold information about financial scams out of fear that they’ll be seen as incapable handling their own affairs. Regardless, reporting to law enforcement is the first step towards finding the culprit.
- Brief description of the activity
- Date, time and location of the activity
- Physical identifiers of anyone you observed
- Descriptions of vehicles
- Information about where people involved in suspicious activities may have gone
- Your name and contact information (optional)
How you proceed from here will ultimately depend on the scope and specifics of the issue. For instance…
Dealing With Internet Fraud, Cyber Crime, and Phishing Scams
Along with alerting your local authorities, if you have been the victim of an internet-related crime, you should report it to specific government authorities. Some of the most important organizations include:
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This organization will send any internet-related criminal complaints to federal, state, local, or international law You should always contact them if you’ve been victimized by an online crime.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This organization handles consumer complaints, including online scams with local, state, federal, and foreign law enforcement. You should definitely contact them if you have fallen prey to a phishing
- gov. This organization can handle complaints about online shopping and e-commerce transactions with foreign companies.
- The Department of Justice (DOJ). You can contact the DOJ to report internet or intellectual property
Additionally, if you accidentally share any financial information, bank account details, or credit card numbers during a scam, you should immediately contact your credit card provider and your bank in order to protect your accounts. Even if you aren’t sure if your information was stolen, it is always best to play it safe in these matters.
Child Abuse & Exploitation
One of the most rampant crimes committed online is sexual abuse and exploitation. While local and state authorities typically handle actual cases of physical abuse, there are several organizations you can contact in order to report inappropriate behavior your children may have encountered online. The DOJ website includes specific links for dealing with cases of child exploitation and obscenity. In particular, if you wish to report obscene material sent to a child or if you suspect your child is being contacted by an online predator, you should call 911 and file a report on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s website at www.cybertipline.com, or call 1-800-843-5678.
Doing Our Part To Keep The Internet Safer
It is up to all of us to report online fraud cases and other forms of suspicious online activity. Yet if you’re looking to protect yourself from such behavior, you should contact the professionals at Clean Internet. We provide some of the finest web filtering tools available, designed to keep families and businesses out of harm’s way. You can learn more about our services on our website, or by contacting us by calling (219) 728-5030 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.