Cyber Awareness Month

October 2, 2009

To promote Cyber Awareness Month the FBI describes the mission of Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, and how it supports the public.

Audio Transcript

Mr. Schiff: Hello I’m Neal Schiff and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. Let’s talk cyberspace. It’s October and this is Cyber Awareness Month.

Ms. Hoppey: “There are a lot of pitfalls out there. It can be dangerous, especially for children.”

Mr. Schiff: That’s Special Agent Leslie Hoppey. She heads the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, which is in the FBI’s Cyber Division.

Ms. Hoppey: “We’re very unique because we are in alliance with the National White Collar Crime Center, which is an organization, a non-profit organization, funded by the Department of Justice. And what our mission is, is that we address fraud committed over the Internet. And we see so many different types of fraud: non-delivery, auction fraud, computer fraud, intrusion matters. So we see quite a bit.

We have many functions and one of our main functions is that we have the website. This is a clearinghouse where people can actually go that have been defrauded over the Internet and they can file a complaint with us. And that way our analysts can look at the complaints and triage the complaints together. Right now we’re averaging over 28,000 complaints per month.

And I also think it’s important to mention that the IC3 works very closely with private industry. So, we confer with them, along with our complaints, and it gives us an understanding of what trends are evolving out there in the Internet world.”

Mr. Schiff: Agent Hoppey says we all have to protect ourselves when we’re on the Internet by taking safety precautions, especially when children are online.

Ms. Hoppey: “I constantly tell parents to be aware of what sites their children are visiting, just to keep on top of it. A lot of people, unfortunately, provide very personal information out there—people could get that—so it can be dangerous.”

Mr. Schiff: There has been a lot of activity, criminal in nature, at some of the very popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Ms. Hoppey: “Lately we’ve seen more and more people reporting that their accounts have been hijacked. And what’s going is the fraudsters are going into their accounts and impersonating them. So that seems to be one of the big problems with these social networking sites.”

Mr. Schiff: We asked Agent Hoppey about what is the FBI doing about these illegal activities?

Ms. Hoppey: “The FBI, and especially the IC3, is very proactive about prevention. I think that’s one of the biggest keys here is trying not for it to occur. On our website we constantly release public service announcements for people to be aware of certain schemes and things happening out there. And I also think that a lot of people, when they’re on these social networking sites, their account is taken over, their personal information is divulged, and some of these people actually incur financial losses. At that point, the victim could file a complaint at and again, our analysts will review these complaints and send them out to the appropriate FBI office or law enforcement office as a referral.”

Mr. Schiff: And what are these criminal acts the fraudsters are doing on the Internet?

Ms. Hoppey: “Well, what we’ve seen is a lot of victims are reporting that they’re unknowingly downloading malware or installing malicious codes on their computers. And the problem is when they become infected users, they are spreading this malware to other friends on their sites; trusted friends. And a lot of times these people are trusting them and they don’t realize that they’ve been infected.

Also, as I said previously, a lot of the victims are reporting that their accounts have been hijacked; and this can happen in so many ways. One of the techniques that they’re being hijacked is through the use of spam. It’s used to promote phishing sites and a lot of time they’ll receive these phishing sites, and on it, the phishing site is claiming that an issue has to be resolved on a social networking site so these people (victims) innocently provide them with their user name and password and then they become locked out of their own account. Again, the fraudster will impersonate that person on the account, and they will send out e-mails to that person’s friend list. And a lot of times what we’re seeing is they will try and extort money out of these friends because the friends think they are the legitimate person.

Another time people’s accounts are hijacked and then their own reputation is compromised, so that’s a big problem, too.”

Mr. Schiff: We asked Agent Hoppey to define malware and phishing.

Ms. Hoppey: “Yes, malware encompasses a lot of things that can be installed on your computer by the fraudster in a malicious matter. It could be Trojans, it could be viruses, it could be key loggers. And the whole point of malware is to get information from you, personal information. And it’s used a lot of times to try and get from a person, for their identity to be stolen.

And phishing is when you might receive a spam, and you might think it’s from somewhere else, and you provide them with your name or a password, and they will use that information to get into your account.”

Mr. Schiff: What can happen if the fraudsters get this information and sneak into your bank and credit card accounts?

Ms. Hoppey: “There are very serious ramifications if you don’t protect yourself when using a social networking site. One of them, as we talked about, is when the malware is installed on your computer, you could become a victim of identity theft, and that’s a very big problem right now. And also, if a person releases too much personal information on their site or their computer, somebody can actually track you down if they want to, and they’re going to obtain all that personal information about you.”

Mr. Schiff: Agent Hoppey says it’s up to you to take the responsibility to be safe when you’re on the computer. She says be proactive.

Ms. Hoppey: “Find out about the networking sites that you may be interested in joining. Another big thing is to keep your personal computer updated with the latest anti-virus and firewall software and maintain the operating system updates. Also, too, when you’re thinking about going to these social networking sites, make sure you that adjust the website privacy settings; that you can protect your own identity. And also keep control of the information you post; consider limiting this information to your family members or close friends.

And be selective of your friends, when you have friend listed. Because, as you know, these friends can see all this information that you’re posting on your site. Again, research the site that you want to join. And be familiar with their policies and procedures. Most of these sites have frequently asked questions that you can visit and find out more about it. And again, be extremely careful when you’re on these sites. Make sure you know where you are linking to or what you’re clicking on to.

A lot of this is based on trust. and even though you might be on a trusted friend’s site, just be aware that they may have malware that they don’t know that they have.”

Mr. Schiff: The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center is there for you and wants to help you right a wrong if you become a cyber victim.

Ms. Hoppey: “It’s very important once a person is either defrauded or they find out about these illegal activities, is visit and you can file a complaint with us.

Again, if you go to our website, you can get the latest public service announcements. Find out about what precautions you could take or what schemes are out there.

Another site that IC3 hosts along with other government agencies and private industry is That’s a very good site to educate the consumer. We have a listing of all different types of frauds on there, to be familiar with it.

And also, by individuals filing complaints with us, it’s an excellent intelligence gathering tool for us, because we could monitor these complaints and then we could write up these public service announcements on future trends that we’re seeing.”

Mr. Schiff: Don’t wait to be safer on the Internet. Cyberspace criminals are out there waiting for you. Update your computer virus scanners and firewalls and don’t give anyone your user IDs and passwords; be very careful about putting personal information on the Internet. And parents, you may wish to remind your children about where they go and what they do on the Internet, as there are a lot of strangers out there lurking. Once again, if you know of illegal activity in cyberspace, go to and report what’s going on. And there’s much more to learn about Cyber Awareness Month and the FBI’s cyber investigations at That concludes our show. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

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