With a new year beginning, the Dothan Police Department is gearing up to battle the ongoing increase in cybercrime, one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States.
“Unfortunately, cybercrimes don’t just affect one certain individual,” said Dothan police Sgt. Tim Mullis. “Anyone can become a victim of a cybercrime.”
According to Mullis, the Dothan Police Department is seeing an increase in cyberbullying, cyberattacks of identity theft, and cyberattacks soliciting sex or pornography from children.
“Each year, the number of cybercrimes increases,” he said. “But, that is only the cases we know about. Several cybercrimes go unreported.”
Mullis attributes the increase to social media apps.
“Many of those apps can be accessed by children,” he said. “That’s why we urge parents to be cautious on what apps their children are using. Know what apps your children are accessing on their phone and computers, and know your child’s password for each app. Parents would be surprised at what someone is asking their child to do, or what they may be sending to their child, such as requests for nudity pictures, soliciting sex or wishing to meet. Parents must become involved. If something is found inappropriate on your child’s phone, report it to law enforcement so an investigation can begin right away.”
Children and teenagers are not the only prey targeted.
“You know the many trivia quizzes posted on Facebook and on other social media sources? Well, those apps are being used to find out your personal information,” Mullis said. “These apps are trying to find out your birth month, and some are designed to find out passwords such as your first pet’s name and so forth. Once that information is collected, cybercriminals use that information to access your personal information and sometimes your bank account. The sad thing about this situation is it could have been avoided.”
Another type of cybercrime on the rise involves ransom photos, which is a form of cyberbullying.
“We have seen cases where a photo is used for ransom,” Mullis said. “A majority of the photos used in this crime are photos involving the victim being nude. That picture is used as ransom for money. Instead of the photo being shown to a girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, husband, or even to the church the victim is attending, the cybercriminal will demand money. The best piece of advice I can give anyone is never share a picture of yourself in the nude, and never let anyone take a photo of you nude. That eliminates ever falling victim to this form of cyberbullying.”
The best thing anyone can to do to avoid becoming a victim of a cybercrime is to watch what is posted on any social media site, and parents must look in their children’s phone — often, Mullis said.
“No child is going to want to their parent snooping through their phone, but do it,” he said. “It’s not you don’t trust your child. As a parent, you want to protect your child, and knowing what your child is doing and who they are talking to on social media is one way of protecting your child.”
To report any form of cybercrime, call 334-615-3000.