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Montanans Encouraged To Review On-Line Safety

Safer Internet Day Observed February 12

Attorney General Tim Fox invited Montanans to join internet users around the world to observe Safer Internet Day, Feb. 12. This is the eighth year Americans have recognized Safer Internet Day.

“A safe and positive internet experience depends on us all,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “Digital civility, safety, privacy and security should be part of our online habits to make every day a Safer Internet Day. Remember to think before you share, know who you’re dealing with and always guard your personal information when you’re online,” Fox advised.

Fox’s Office of Consumer Protection reported a slight increase in Montana’s internet fraud reports last year. In 2019, 3,908 scams/attempted scams in these categories were reported to OCP, up from 3,873 in 2018. Three years ago, scam reports to OCP by Montanans reached an all-time high, when 4,009 scam reports were logged. The government imposter scam continues to be the number-one reported scam in Montana. In previous years, it was the IRS scam; OCP now sees a trend toward the Social Security scam.

Last November, Fox announced the hiring of a cybercrime agent at the Montana Department of Justice. The new position is part of the agency’s Division of Criminal Investigation’s Computer and Internet Crime Unit, which also houses its new human trafficking investigation team, forensic computer examiners and internet crimes against children investigators. The addition of this new position, coupled with the agency’s intent to join the FBI’s cybercrime task force, means Montana will have increased tools to address cybercrimes. This partnership will serve as a resource multiplier for DOJ and enable law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes like identity theft, hacking and cyber extortion.

Additionally, two years ago, DCI assumed leadership of the Internet Crimes Against Children program after being awarded the federal grant for Montana. DCI now plays a leadership role in protecting at-risk children from online predators and prosecuting them. DCI partners with 15 affiliate agencies around the state, processing hundreds of Montana-specific cyber tips and leads annually. This usually results in human trafficking investigations, since many offenders are online, seeking or posting sexual services which often involve underage victims.

Fox reminds Montanans of these tips they can use to be safe online:

•Know who you’re dealing with: ID thieves can pose as anyone online or over the phone. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of the person on the other end of the line, end the conversation and contact the organization in a way you trust, like calling them at the phone number listed on your billing statement or on their website.

•Take advantage of privacy settings: Businesses, websites and apps often have different levels of account privacy and security to choose from. Learn what your choices are, and employ the setting you feel comfortable with.

•Think before you share: Limit information that could be used to steal your identity or answer security questions on your accounts, such as your date and place of birth, a detailed work history and other personally identifying material. This applies to sites for business networking, too. Also refrain from posting status updates or photos that share your location, especially if you’re out of town.

•Report dangerous behavior: Posts on social media run the gamut from light and funny to serious and personal. If someone is making aggressive posts or comments or writing that he or she plans to commit an act of violence in real life, assess the situation. If you believe the threat is real and your or another person or people could be in danger, contact your law enforcement officials right away.

•Guard your personal information: Credit card, bank account and social security numbers can be stolen online or from documents you throw out. Shred or destroy any forms that contain personal identifying information when you dispose of them. This includes old tax documents, prescriptions, receipts, bank deposit slips, pay stubs, expired credit cards, insurance policies and credit card applications.

For more tips, visit the Montana Office of Consumer Protection online. For updates on the latest scams and identity theft attempts affecting Montanans, follow the Montana Office of Consumer Protection on Facebook. To report an attempted scam, use OCP’s convenient online reporting form. To speak with an OCP investigator, call 800481-6896 or 406-444-4500. Scams may also be reported to your local law enforcement agency.

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