MSA Star Kalkaska Sheriff Office
Computer Crimes Unit
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COMPUTER CRIMES UNIT

The deputy assigned to investigate computer related crimes is Sargeant Pat Whiteford.

Criminals are more efficient than ever. They operate in the world of online computer communications, sometimes called cyberspace. More criminals commit their crimes electronically, by going online with a computer. It's quick, It's often easy, and they figure the police don't know enough to catch them. It's true that the crooks have a head start, but we're catching up quick.

Chasing a crook through cyberspace isn't anything like the classic police chase in the movies. That was all action. This is all details. You don't have to be a tech-weenie to catch a cyber-crook. You just have to do what you do every day:

Ask the right questions
Understand what clues, leads, and evidence to look for
Collect and preserve the evidence

Tour of Cyberspace

There are tens of thousands of places to visit in cyberspace, just as there are in a city. You need a map to find your way around a city and you also need a map in cyberspace. The Internet is the largest neighborhood in cyberspace. It has three distinct subdivisions. Each part of the Internet performs a specific function. In addition, you can send Electronic Mail (email) on the Internet.

World Wide Web (www) consists of thousands of electronic storefronts set up by businesses, organizations, government agencies and individuals. The Web is a source for news and information as well as a market place where you can purchase goods and services.

Usenet Newsgroups are similar to a bulletin board at an office where you can read what's been posted and post something yourself. There are thousands devoted to a wide varity of subjects.

Internet Relay/Chat consists of thousands of electronic chat rooms where you can "talk" to another person or a group by typing on your keyboard.

Evidence ComputerWhat it Takes to Go Online

All you need is a computer, a modem, and a telephone. In addition to that hardware, you need software that allows your computer to communicate with other online computers.

Most people connect to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). You connect to the ISP and they connect you to the Internet.

Criminal Use of the World Wide Web (Web Site Scams):

Sometimes web sites vanish overnight. Here's what happens. Criminals set up a web site, collect money or identification information, and then "erase" the web site. It can disappear at a moment's notice. Here's how consumers get ripped off.

A con artist set up a web site to sell products at very low prices, prices too good to be true. The consumer may pay $200 for an item that usually sells for much more. However, what the consumer receives is an item worth as little as $20.

Criminals also set up web sites to collect credit card numbers and other personal information from customers who believe they're buying a product or service. In reality, nothing is ever delivered. The criminal then sells the stolen information to other criminals or uses it for his own illegal purposes.

Criminal Use of Newsgroups:

There are newsgroups which collect and distribute child pornography and make children available for sex.

Thieves use newsgroups to advertise stolen products for sale.

Some newsgroups are collections of traditional consumer scams such as Ponzi schemes and chain letters.

Criminal Use of Internet Relay Chat:

Pedophiles meet in chat rooms to discuss their sexual exploits.

Pedophiles trade child pornography pictures via a variety of electronic means while online.

Pedophiles and other sexual predators visit chat rooms catering to children and teenagers. After engaging them in conversation, sometimes over a period of days, weeks, or months, these predators try to lure these young people into real world, sexual relationships, off  line.  

Fraudsters work in chat rooms developing relationships, looking for someone who will fall for their get-rich-quick schemes and phony business "opportunities".

Criminals sometimes hold their "meetings" with co-conspirators on IRC channels where they can communicate person to person. No one else "sees" what they say to one another. It's a method of communication which avoids a legal wiretap.

Criminal Use of Electronic Mail:

Criminals sometimes market their fraudulent scams through email. This unsolicited "junk" email is referred to as "SPAM". The practice of sending email messages to thousands of consumers is called Spamming.

Criminals will send out fraudulent emails from legitimate online businesses such as banks, auction sites, etc. requesting you to confirm your password or stating your account is in jeopardy and instruct you to "Click Here" to verify. If you provide this information,  your user name and password, has just been made available "to the crook".

Criminals will send out emails that attempt to involve you in a scheme known as the "Nigerian Scam". This scam is very popular. It advises the user that they are willing to share with you, a large sum of money. The email states that the owner of the money recently died and his/her money is just sitting in an overseas bank. It asks that if you would act as the only living relative, they will share the fortune with you.  Very enticing, but THIS IS A HOAX!!!

Online Getaway Car:

Just as criminals steal cars to commit crimes and make their getaway, online criminals steal internet accounts to commit online crimes and make their getaway. It's a way to elude the police. In fact, when investigators follow up on the crime much of the evidence will point to an innocent account holder. 

The Stolen Password (Trojan Horse):

A crook emails you something enticing. In one case it was an offer of a miracle weight reduction plan. The email says "Just click the line below."By doing so you "download and execute" a file which is attached to the email. That file contains the information your promised. What you don't know is that file secretly infiltrates your computer and installs a secret computer program, a type of virus. Later that virus steals your password and emails it back to the crook.

The Password Scam (Password Solicitation): 

A criminal sends you an email claiming he's from your Internet Service Provider's billing department. The email reads "We've had a computer problem. Send us your screen name and password as soon ass possible or you won't be able to access your account. With this information the criminal can access your account and commit crimes with your account.

Identity Theft:

A criminal sends you email asking for name, address and credit card number. He may claim he's from the billing department at your ISP, your Credit Card Company, etc. It may even take you to a mirror web site that looks legitimate. It even has a log in screen. Once you enter the information, the criminal has it. The criminal applies for and gets online accounts with several ISPs. He uses those accounts to commit crimes. When law enforcement traces the crime. The IP address and email point to an innocent person, not the criminal.

Acknowledgement: Most of the above information taken from the National Cybercrime Training Partnership (NCTP) Handout Booklet to access .

Most financial institutions, government agencies and auction sites have a spoof@address in which you can forward your suspicious email. Access the site in your normal manner to obtain the correct address to report a possible fraudulent email. If no spoof@address exists and follow the directions to file a complaint. This is the FBI Task Force Computer Crimes link.

If you have a questionable email, protect yourself by avoiding the "Click Here" within the email. Access the site the way you normally do and check your account to see if there is any problem. Call the banking institution by phone, avoid the urge to "Click Here". Avoid installing email attachments from unknown sources (even then it could be a virus).

For Additional Computer Security Tips access Informational Menu or

Be smart, be safe, be suspicious!

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