Using the Internet to scam someone out of money or hold their information hostage, even bullying, are all examples of what law enforcement is calling cybercrimes. The 2017 Internet Crime Report issued by the Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 300,000 complaints with losses reported at $1.4 billion.
That’s one of the reasons that the Whitestown Police Department is investing in the first cyberforensics crime lab in Boone County. But Chief of Police Dennis Anderson revealed there is another reason for his interest and focus.
“I’ll be honest with you, my wife and I became victims of an identity theft,” Anderson said. “It took us more than three years to get that mess cleaned up.”
Although the Andersons didn’t lose any money in the crime, they did suffer blemishes on their credit reports which took a long time to correct. The hacker got away with the crime, Anderson said. The closest law enforcement got to locating him was in Houston or south Mississippi.
“That’s what I don’t want the people out here having to go through,” Anderson added. “Then when I started investigating about what we’d have to do to put a cybercrimes unit in play. I started learning about what’s happening to corporations around the country and the dollar amounts their losing is staggering.”
There are five agencies with cybercrime units in Indiana, including the state crime lab, Anderson said, but they are always backed up on cases. The Cybercrimes unit will be housed in Whitestown’s new police headquarters currently under construction with a targeted opening of fall 2020. Anderson said other police chiefs are willing to dedicate an officer to the cybercrimes unit to become a joint task force operation.
“It is a different type of law enforcement officer,” Anderson said. “We’re always going to have a need for that street officer or that neighborhood detective going out on property crimes investigations. But law enforcement is behind the scale when it comes to cybercrimes.”
Anderson describes the young tech law enforcement officer who will chase an Internet protocol or IP address all across the dark web. Often, the culprit is in another country and out of the jurisdiction of Whitestown, but Anderson says the unit will work in conjunction with the FBI who will, in turn, work with international police to catch these scammers.
“You’ve got to have law enforcement all around the world that are all working off of the same page, just like we were back in the ‘60s learning how to do fingerprints,” Anderson said. “It’s that same kind of deal, only on a faster-paced scale, because I can hit the (keyboard) key in Indiana and affect something that’s happening in the (United Kingdom) U.K. within a millisecond.”
Anderson said his experience has helped him sympathize with people who call the police to say they were just scammed. Whitestown already has some software to assist in tracking down cybercriminals and staff there is learning to use it.