Internet Crimes Unit provides safety tips to protect people from identity theft, child predators – Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent today reminded adolescents, parents, and consumers of the dangers associated with using the internet during the holiday season. As the internet continuously reaches more people worldwide, it also affords new opportunities for criminals. The Internet Crimes Unit (ICU) web site, developed by the Illinois State Police provides the public and law enforcement officials with another avenue to report cyber crimes nationally. The website, www.isp.state.il.us/icu., includes online complaint filing, community awareness and education, safety tips, identity theft prevention, tips on internet scams, as well as links to Illinois statutes and legislation related to internet crime.
“We just want people to be careful when using the internet especially around the holidays,” said Director Trent. “More people are shopping online so the possibility of someone stealing their identity increases. Also, kids are off school and spend more time talking to their friends online. Parents need to know who their kids are chatting with online and be aware of online predators. We created the Internet Crimes Unit to protect people logging onto the internet every day.”
In 2006, Governor Blagojevich established the ISP Internet Crimes Unit to fight internet crime, protect families and communities from sexual predators and give law enforcement the tools and resources they need to go after criminals. The ICU is dedicated solely to combating online crime, including identity theft, child pornography and drug solicitation.
The use of interactive web sites has also exposed people to risks while communicating online. Social network sites and chat rooms allow you to talk with friends and strangers who may share the same hobbies and interests. Unfortunately, they also expose users of these sites to dangerous risks such as online bullying, cyber-stalking, inadvertent disclosure of personal information, access and exposure to age-inappropriate media, and in some instances, contact with unknown child predators.
In May of this year, the Internet Crimes Unit assisted a local police department with a 16-year-old juvenile runaway. In this case, the victim had met the suspect on line and corresponded via text messaging. After running away with the assistance of the suspect, the victim and suspect were located hours later in Missouri. The juvenile was re-united with her family and the suspect was arrested pending charges of kidnapping.
In June 2007, a complaint was received of child victimization. The complaint involved a 16-year-old juvenile in the company of a convicted felon. Further analytical research by the ICU revealed both subjects had been communicating through a social network web site. The suspect, among other things, was contributing to the delinquency of the juvenile. The case was investigated and is pending prosecution.
The following safety tips specific to children in social networking and chat room sites are offered by the ICU:
- Do not give out personal information without a parent’s permission. For example, never give out your address, telephone number, parent’s work address/telephone number, or the name or location of your school without a parent’s permission.
- Never make plans to get together with someone you meet online without asking for a parent’s permission first. If you decide to meet with someone, make sure you meet in a public place, and bring a parent along.
- Do not send pictures of yourself to anyone without a parent’s permission.
- Don’t engage in any conversation that makes you uncomfortable or that you do not understand./li>
- Your social network profiles should always be set to private (for example MySpace), in order to avoid unwelcomed members.
- Instant Messenger programs should only be used to chat with people you know personally. Don’t talk to strangers. People may not be who they say they are. The 14- year-old girl who wants to be your friend may be an online predator.
- Pick a user name that doesn’t include any personal information. For example, “joe_glasgow” or “jane_liverpool” would be bad choices.
- What goes online stays online. Don’t say anything or publish pictures that might cause you embarrassment later.
- Don’t let peer pressure or what other people are doing on these sites push you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. Just because other people post their mobile phone number or birthday, doesn’t mean you have to.
- Don’t do or say anything online you wouldn’t say offline.
The ISP also uses NetSmartz as its primary internet safety educational tool. NetSmartz was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Boys and Girls Club of America. The program is an age-based educational program designed for K-12 students and their parents. The program is presented to schools, parent groups, civic organizations, and others with a desire to learn safe internet surfing techniques. In 2006, approximately 17,000 students and parents were provided NetSmartz presentations by the ISP. A NetSmartz training program can be scheduled by contacting a Safety Education Officer at any ISP headquarters. The training is free for all schools, parent groups and civic organizations.
In an effort to protect the public from becoming victims of scams, internet fraud, and identity theft, the following helpful tips are offered:
If you encounter a problem on-line or would like to report a crime contact the ISP at 1.888.70CRIME or click on the Internet Crimes Unit Link on any of the state of Illinois websites.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Never send personal credit card information as a result of an email request. Legitimate companies and banks will never ask you to send personal information over the internet.
- Be cautious of online auctions that list high dollar items that you cannot inspect before you buy. These items include things such as vehicles and jewelry, or expensive handbags and clothing that claim to be “designer.”
- Internet criminals can make a site look like an official bidding site and even post "guarantees." They can also manipulate their feedback scores to make them appear to be 100% positive. Also, avoid "second chance offers."
- Be cautious of businesses that operate out of post office boxes or mail drops. In addition, be wary of persons who do not have direct telephone lines or those that are never "in" when you call.
- Avoid doing business with sellers and/or buyers from other countries.
- Avoid sending money orders and cashier’s checks for payment. Do not wire money overseas or correspond with persons you do not know.
- Useful websites to visit: www.consumer.gov/sentinel/, www.fakechecks.org, www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.
- Do not accept checks for substantial amounts of money wherein the buyer asks you to cash the check and in turn send money to a "shipper" or a third party. This also applies to "work from home" scams wherein the "employer" will pay you a substantial amount of money and ask you to issue a check from your personal account to a third party.
- Do not spend more than you are willing to lose.
- Be wary of businesses that use free email accounts such as gmail, hotmail or yahoo.
- Be cautious of online businesses that have not been in business for at least one (1) year.
- Don’t fall for “hard-luck” stories. These are especially common when dealing with internet scams, especially if the e-mails have originated overseas or from dating websites.
- If you are unfamiliar with a person or business, do your research. Explore sites such as the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org and/or www.ripoffreport.com.
- If you fall victim to internet crime please file a complaint with the Illinois State Police Internet Crime Unit at www.isp.state.il.us/icu or call our toll free number at (888)702.7463. Analysts are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.