Cybercrime can be particularly difficult to investigate and prosecute because it often crosses legal jurisdictions and even international boundaries. Additionally, an offender may disband one online criminal operation—only to start up a new activity with a new approach—before an incident even comes to the attention of the authorities.
The good news is that federal, state and local law enforcement authorities are becoming more sophisticated about cybercrime and are devoting more resources to responding to these threats. Furthermore, over the past several years, many new anti-cybercrime statutes have been passed that empower federal, state and local authorities to investigate and prosecute these crimes. However, law enforcement needs your help to stop the nefarious behavior of cybercriminals and bring them to justice.
Who to Contact
Google local law enforcement: Even if you have been the target of a multijurisdictional cybercrime, your local law enforcement agency (either police department or sheriff’s office) has an obligation to assist you, take a formal report and make referrals to other agencies, when appropriate. Report your situation as soon as you find out about it. Some local agencies have detectives or departments that focus specifically on cybercrime.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): IC3 will thoroughly review and evaluate your complaint and refer it to the appropriate federal, state, local or international law enforcement or regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the matter. IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center (funded, in part, by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance). Complaints may be filed online here.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints but does operate the Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide to detect patterns of wrong-doing, leading to investigations and prosecutions. File your complaint here. Victims of identity crime may receive additional help through the FTC hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); identitytheft.gov provides resources for victims, businesses and law enforcement.
Your local victim services provider: Most communities in the United States have victim advocates ready to help following a crime; these providers offer information, emotional support and advocacy as needed. Find local victims service providers here.
Collect and Keep Evidence
Even though you may not be asked to provide evidence when you first report the cybercrime, it is very important to keep any evidence you may have related to your complaint. Keep items in a safe location in the event you are requested to provide them for investigative or prosecutive evidence. Evidence may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Canceled checks
- Certified or other mail receipts
- Chatroom or newsgroup text
- Credit card receipts
- Envelopes (if you received items via FedEx, UPS or U.S. Mail)
- Log files, if available, with date, time and time zone
- Social media messages
- Money order receipts
- Pamphlets or brochures
- Phone bills
- Printed or preferably electronic copies of emails (if printed, include full email header information)
- Printed or preferably electronic copies of web pages
- Wire receipts
- Anti-Phishing Working Group
- Better Business Bureau Online Complaint System
- CyberTipLine, operated by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
- Identity Theft Resource Center
- Social Security Administration: Report Fraud, Waste or Abuse
- StopFraud.gov Victims of Fraud Resources
- U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service – File a Complaint
- Find your state’s attorney general
Resources: The National Cyber Security Alliance, FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center