Cybercrime is a worldwide threat that affects everyone from high-power governments to your hometown neighbor. But in the U.S., the average citizen is at risk of falling victim to malicious cybercriminals every day. Furthermore, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a partnership between the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center), residents in certain states report being victimized more frequently than others. Did your state make the list? Read on to find out.
The States of Cybercrime
According to the 2010 IC3 Annual Report, the following 10 states filed the most cybercrime complaints:
- California (13.7%)
- Florida (7.9%)
- Texas (7.3%)
- New York (5.8%)
- New Jersey (4.3%)
- Pennsylvania (3.6%)
- Illinois (3.3%)
- Virginia (3%)
- Ohio (2.9%)
- Washington (2.9%)
The 303,809 reports filed included a variety of cybercrimes, ranging from auction fraud to FBI-impersonation scams. However, the most common were: non-delivery/payment merchandise (21.1%), identity theft (16.6%), auction fraud (10.1%), credit card fraud (9.3%), and miscellaneous fraud (7.7%). In total, the report states victims of these crimes reported losing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Interestingly, however, though these states reported the most crimes, most of the perpetrators of the crimes did not reside within the same state as the victim. This means that hackers’ reach extends well beyond state lines (and oftentimes even country borders), as they aim to exploit innocent people the world over.
And though these numbers are concerning (despite the fact that the IC3 received fewer filed complaints than 2009), the report only details the crimes reported. Millions of Americans fall victim to cybercrime each year, unknowingly. This means every citizen must take precautions to avoid becoming the next statistic.
Beat the Bad Guys
Hackers can try to steal your information anytime, anywhere by deploying malware and engineering scams. Follow these tips to keep your information safe:
Install security programs: Make sure you have firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware programs installed and activated. This will safeguard you from online attacks. Remember to update your security programs (and operating systems) to ensure you are running with the latest security patches.
Browse securely: Whether on social media sites, banking, or shopping online, make sure you are on a secure network (the address will start with https://). It will also show a padlock icon to prove your information is being encrypted.
Don’t click suspicious links: When surfing online, reading email, or social networking, do not click on suspicious links or popups that encourage you to download something. These are often ploys to get you to unknowingly install malware.
Avoid public Wi-Fi: Whether at the local café or airport, public Wi-Fi is a completely open network that anyone can access (especially bad guys). Worse, some hackers have been known to open up fake “free hot spots,” hoping unsuspecting users will hop on and give them complete access to their online activity.
Create strong passwords: For all online accounts, create passwords that combine letters, numbers, and symbols. Use different usernames and passwords for each account, too.
Don’t post personal information online: The more info you post online, the easier it is for a criminal to use it for identity theft or fraud. Never post your address or financial information online.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a cybercrime, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.