RI launches new hotline to report cybercrimes

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s new cybercrime hotline received its first call Monday.

The statewide system is intended to support people who have been victimized of crimes including identity theft, fraud and cyberstalking. It is available by dialing 211, the United Way’s help hotline.

Rhode Island is the first state to launch a state-wide system for cybercrime victims built on the existing 211 network, according to Congressman Jim Langevin, who helped secure almost $300,000 in federal funding for the project.

“Victims of cybercrime often find themselves unsure of where to turn for help,” Langevin said. “Someone at the other end will be trained to triage what to do next.”

That may mean one-on-one counseling, a connection to community resources or help reporting crimes to law enforcement.

“We’ve found that many people who are victims of cyber crimes and other types of scams may not realize it at the time or they may be too embarrassed to tell anyone including the police,” Rhode Island State Police Colonel James Manni said.

In 2018, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 350,000 complaints that represented $2.7 billion in losses.

“Unfortunately, the internet was not built with security in mind,” Langevin said.

Kristen Judge, of the Cybercrime Support Network, says cybercrime incidents that are reported through 211 will be tracked and shared.

“If we have a vision into what the bad guys are doing, we may actually be able to stop some of them,” Judge said. “I know we will, and we’ll also be able to keep folks from being revictimized because they’re going to get the help they need.”

The Cybercrime Support Network hopes to be available in all 50 states in three years.

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