North Carolina set up a cybercrime hotline as state residents lost millions of dollars in scams related to its pandemic COVID-19. The free telephone support line NC 2-1-1, one of the first to open on USA, funded by state and federal grants.
The scams reported by victims in North Carolina take many forms: Cell phone "cloning", fake COVID-19 test results, fake charities and scams seeking to exploit people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Nichole Dennis, program director for network support for cybercrime, told WCNC Charlotte that the cybercriminals take advantage of the vulnerable situation of people who have become unemployed due to the health crisis, offering them as "bait" jobs to deceive them.
Other scams seek to exploit people who are left alone while in lockdown. Sharon D'costa, project manager of the NC 2-1-1 line, stated that she had noticed an increase in the number of "romantic" scams as well as scams involving puppies for sale.
It is worth noting that in 2019 alone, more than 8.223 complaints were lodged with the FBI's Online Crime Complaints Center. businesses in North Carolina, recording total money losses of $ 48.425.764 from such cybercrime.
State residents have reported more than $ 4.000.000 in COVID-19-related fraud losses since March, according to the Federal Trade Commission. This significant loss makes North Carolina the 8th most targeted US state in terms of fraud taking advantage of the global health crisis.
Dennis pointed out that many people do not even realize that they have fallen victim to fraud. In addition, they do not know where to turn for one incident. There is really no clear path to what they should do when they fall victim to cybercrime, Dennis added.
Thus, in an effort to facilitate fraud reporting, Dennis's team worked with United Way of North Carolina to establish an open hotline. All the victims need to do is call 2-1-1 and talk to the experts.
In May 2020, the Cybercrime Support Network and the Heart of West Michigan United Way in partnership with the Heart of Florida United Way launched a toll-free hotline for residents of 13 counties in Northern Michigan.