The Internet has transformed the way we live our lives. It enables us to bank online, shop from the comfort of our homes, and connect with friends and family around the world. While there are many benefits to living in a digitized society, it can also make us more vulnerable to cybercrimes like identity theft, financial fraud, and cyberstalking. Cybercrimes are on the rise, yet victims often don’t know where to turn for help.
Thankfully, Rhode Island is leading the way to tackle this issue. With the assistance of $282,600 in federal funding that I helped secure through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) program, Rhode Island has launched the first statewide cybercrime hotline in the country. I was excited to host an event earlier this month to officially launch the hotline and help spread the word.
Managed through a partnership between the Cybercrime Support Network, United Way Rhode Island 2-1-1, and the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center (BVAC), the hotline uses the state’s existing 2-1-1 infrastructure to connect victims with trained operators who can assess the situation and place them in touch with organizations that can help. When someone becomes the target of theft, fraud, or exploitation, they can pick up the phone and dial “2-1-1” for assistance.
The need for us to address cybercrime is great. In 2018 alone, over 350,000 complaints from individuals and small businesses were filed with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for monetary losses of over $2.7 billion. However, I am optimistic that this new hotline will prove effective in providing much-needed support and recovery services and serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow.
To keep up with my ongoing work in the cyber realm, and for updates on many other issues, please visit my website and follow me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.