FARMERSBURG, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — As social media and technology evolve, cybercrime tips continue to rise in Indiana.
The Indiana Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force receives cyber tips. They are reports received from a parent or child about possible incidents related to child exploitation on the Internet.
Many people may think that this is only a problem in bigger cities.
“I will tell you, this is not a big city problem. This is not a Chicago or New York, this is an everywhere problem. This is an all-socioeconomic level problem. It happens with doctors, it happens with lawyers, it happens with people who are unemployed,” Sgt. Kevin Getz with Indiana State Police said.
You may remember in early October, a Terre Haute teen went missing after a man lured her out of her home by pretending to be someone else online.
“A lot of the cases that the Indiana State Police work on happen in rural communities, rural counties. And so we are heavily engaged and working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in combating the distribution, production and dissemination of child sex abuse material,” Getz said.
According to the ICAC Task Force, the number of cyber tips received in Indiana from 2019-2022 has increased drastically.
- 2019: 4,344 cyber tips.
- 2020: 6,221 cyber tips.
- 2021: 7,598 cyber tips.
- 2022: 14,278 cyber tips.
“There’s a variety, thousands of applications that are available for people out there and consequently, as a result of those applications, those who have interest in child sex abuse material are able to produce, possess or reach out and communicate and establish relationships with children,” Getz said.
Even if you don’t mean to share it, Sid Stamm, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Rose-Hulman, explained how easy it can be for someone to find out where you are.
“If kids or anybody is sharing videos or photographs of where they are, information in the photo or video can give hints to anybody who is viewing it about your lifestyle, about what you like, about who you’re with, about where you are. Maybe you’re on vacation. You don’t want your kids telling the world you’re on vacation and that your house is empty, right?” Stamm said.
Getz said many children may be hesitant to come forward because they’re scared that photos or information about them will be online forever.
In December of 2022, the “Take It Down Initiative” was launched by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help remove any pictures or videos of children online who were a victim of cybercrime.
Getz said not to live in fear, but to keep an open line of communication with your kids and ask about any apps you see on their phones that you may not be familiar with.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Certainly trust your gut, if something doesn’t feel right, then that’s not what it is,” Getz said.
If you or anyone you know becomes of victim of a cybercrime, Getz said to report it to law enforcement right away.