Cyber criminals hiding behind false identities have begun preying on patriotic Internet users to gain money or information.
Department of Defense officials have reported a rise in cyber criminals posing as military members to take advantage of patriotic women seeking love online. The criminals oftentimes say they’re deployed, and claim to need money for everything from leave papers to a flight back home.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center reported nearly 340,000 complaint submissions last year, according to the center’s 2009 Internet Crime Report. The total dollar loss from all cases of fraud in 2009 referred to law enforcement by the center was $559.7 million, the report said.
“It’s not a bad thing to be patriotic, but people are trying to distort that for personal gain,” said Paul Sternal, the cyber crimes program director for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
To combat cyber threats, Sternal explained Internet users need to use caution when surfing the web or discussing personal information.
“The Internet is a great resource, and look how the Defense Department uses it to communicate the good we do, to recruit, to get information out to help people,” he said. “There are tremendous benefits, but we need to be smart about how we do this.”
To remain safe online, Sternal outlined several tips. He explained all computer users should always use caution on the Internet or reading emails, stay smart and pay attention to security bulletins and alerts, expect the unexpected, and take responsibility by using security measures.
“I think people let their guard down on the Internet,” Sternal said. “The thing to remember is that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”