October is Cyber Crime Awareness Month and Oskaloosa police officials want you to be careful with your online activities.
The topic of cyber crime can range from child pornography to hacking and stealing government secrets. However, Oskaloosa police officers deal with primarily identity theft, child pornography and any crime associated with the Internet such as harassment.
“We do a presentation at the police department for groups who want to learn about identity theft,” Lt. Troy Boston said. Boston said any groups interested in a presentation about the topic can contact him at the police department.
“Iowa ranks 43rd in identity theft in the U.S.,” Boston said of the number of incidents of identity theft. Crime trends tend to start on the East and West coasts and move inland, so numbers in the Midwest are expected to climb in the future, he said.
Florida, Texas, California and Georgia are the top states for identity theft, Boston said.
“A lot of identity thefts don’t get reported,” he said.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, you should contact the Credit Bureau right away. You also should get a credit score every six months, Boston said.
If you use a debit card a lot, Boston advises that you should check your balance two to three times a week.
“Those cards do get hacked,” he added.
Boston also advises people not to open emails from addresses you do not recognize. Also, there are many email scams that ask people to send money to a certain address or bank account. He said that a request to wire money is a big red flag. If someone provides a routing number to send money, Boston said a bank can check the account number.
Boston advises people to be on their guard when online.
“Identity theft people, they’re getting very sophisticated and very good,” he said. Some identity thieves can create bogus websites to draw people in, he added.
In the realm of child pornography, the crime is evolving.
“The bad guys are moving from home computers to smart phones,” Boston said.
“Sexting” obscene photos on a smart phone is a common child pornography offense and it tends to be predominantly a problem with teens and people in their 20s, but some people in the 30s and 40s commit it too, he said.
“We encourage people to be cautious about what they’re doing,” Boston said.