Rhode Island Launches Nation’s First Statewide Cybercrime Hotline

May 13, 2019 Issues: Cybersecurity, Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. —  Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) was joined by local, state, and federal officials to announce the launch of the nation’s first statewide cybercrime support and recovery hotline. The new system began taking calls today and allows Rhode Islanders to dial “2-1-1” to report and find resources to recover from identity theft, financial fraud, cyberstalking, cyberbullying and other cybercrimes. The new support and recovery system will be managed through a partnership between the Cybercrime Support Network, United Way Rhode Island 2-1-1, and the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center (BVAC). Langevin helped secure $282,600 in federal funding for the system through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant program.

“Victims of cybercrime often find themselves unsure of where to turn for help,” said Langevin, the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. “Thankfully, Rhode Island is leading the way to address this growing issue with the launch of the nation’s first statewide cybercrime hotline. This system will improve cybercrime victim services, increase access to recovery resources, and serve as model for the rest of the country. I was pleased to help secure the federal funding that made this project possible, and I commend the Cybercrime Support Network, United Way Rhode Island 2-1-1, and the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center for their ongoing work on behalf of Rhode Island cybercrime victims.”

Upon calling the hotline, victims will be connected with trained operators who can assess the situation and place them in touch with organizations that can help. Cyber criminals can strike from any part of the globe, so law enforcement is not always best positioned to provide aid after a cyber incident. In cases where a crime is confined to cyberspace – for example, in a case of ransomware or some other kind of computer virus – the operators will be able to point to information technology services that may be able to restore a victim’s computer or mobile phone. Victims of cyber bullying or stalking will be put in touch with governmental and nonprofit support groups who can provide counseling and other services. People who have had their identities stolen will be able to access free federal, state, and local resources to protect themselves from fraud and help recover any financial losses they may have incurred.

“The Rhode Island State Police is honored to be a partner of the Cybercrime Support Network, and to pilot the program here in Rhode Island,” said Rhode Island State Police Colonel James M. Manni. “Rhode Islanders, like individuals across the country, are falling victim to cybercrime. In many cases, victims do not know who to call for help. Embarrassment and confusion deter victims from reporting instances of cybercrime and online fraud, and in many cases they never receive assistance recovering or preventing further victimization. Rhode Island State Police is pleased to work with CSN, United Way 2-1-1 and the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center as they provide support to cybercrime and online fraud victims in Rhode Island, and serve as an example for future programs nationwide.”

“We want to congratulate the United Way for their hard work in securing this Department of Justice (DOJ) Victims of Crime Act grant, one that is part of the DOJ’s critical elder fraud initiative,” said United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman. “With this DOJ grant, which launches a statewide cybercrime support and recovery system, Rhode Islanders should find it much easier to report and find resources to recover from cybercrimes – crimes like identify theft, financial fraud, and cyberstalking. For much more information on the many resources available to the elder community, including where to turn for assistance to victims, families and caregivers, please go to https://www.justice.gov/eldergustice.”

The need to address cybercrime is great. In 2018 alone, over 350,000 complaints from individuals and small businesses were filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for monetary losses of over $2.7 billion. Experts estimate that these figures represent only a small fraction of the cybercrime that actually occurs.

“The CSN Team is thankful for Congressman Langevin's leadership on the issue of cybercrime and online fraud that impacts millions of Americans each year,” said Kristin Judge, the CEO and President of Cybercrime Support Network. “Rhode Island is taking the lead as the first state to launch this national support system, and we are grateful to all the partners in the state who have come together to make it happen. This program is a true public-private partnership that brings a coordinated federal, state and local response to serve victims of cybercrime in a simple, effective manner. Being a victim of cybercrime is stressful enough. Together with our partners, we are taking the stress out of finding help.”

“Every year, millions of Americans contact 2-1-1 for assistance with everything from food, housing, and transportation to help during a mental health crisis or natural disaster,” said Rachel Krausman, the 2-1-1 Senior Director for United Way Worldwide. “Our partnership with the Cybercrime Support Network will ensure that that list also includes resources for those cybercrime victims and their families. We are excited to see United Way Rhode Island leading the charge and to help scale this solution nationwide.”   

“Our vision is that within just two years, by 2021, knowing to call 2-1-1 for help if you’re a victim of cybercrime will be as commonplace as knowing to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance,” said Cortney Nicolato, the President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island.

“Technology is such an integral part of our daily lives; cybercrimes can happen to anyone and victims of domestic violence are especially vulnerable. The direct result is an added level of abuse that did not exist a few years ago,” said Toni Marie Gomes, Executive Director of the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center. “By integrating the Victims of Crime Helpline and the United Way’s 2-1-1 systems with cybercrime resources, we are giving people the power to seek immediate assistance and receive the support they need. The Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center enthusiastically supports any initiative that helps victims in our state.”

“While ideally we could prevent cybercrime entirely, unfortunately this type of criminal activity is an ever-evolving reality of our world today and becoming more and more prevalent,” said Attorney General Peter Neronha. “The new hotline will give victims a centralized place to advise law enforcement of cyber-related crime and misconduct and connect them to resources available to address this threat.”

“Protecting the sensitive information of our citizens is crucial in the digital age,” said Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. “As Rhode Island's Chief Elections Official I know firsthand how complicated cybersecurity has become. I commend Congressman Langevin for his continued leadership in protecting Rhode Islanders from cybercrimes.  In a world where cybercriminals are challenging us every day, resources like the cybercrime hotline are an important resource for Rhode Islanders. I applaud the collaboration Congressman Langevin has promoted between the Rhode Island State Police, Cybercrime Support Network, United Way Rhode Island 2-1-1, and the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center, to help Rhode Islanders recover from cybercrimes and stay safe.”

Earlier this month, the Cybercrime Support Network trained 9-1-1 staff, victim advocates, and 2-1-1 referral specialists to properly handle reports of cybercrime. The training placed a particular emphasis on serving two highly vulnerable populations: seniors and victims of domestic violence.