Law enforcement officials provide tips on cybercrime

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 1, 2001

Using caution and common sense when transmitting financial or personal information over the Internet – and monitoring your children’s computer use – are the keys to preventing cybercrime, said law enforcement officials.

When purchasing items over the Internet, &uot;make sure the Web site you’re using is encrypted,&uot; said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff. &uot;And in general, don’t be free with the information you give out. Don’t respond to every survey you get over the Internet.&uot;

Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell would rather see consumers not give any information out over the Internet. &uot;You’ve got to be more careful of your business these days,&uot;&160;he said.

He also advises consumers to keep a close eye on their credit cards at all times. He noted that the information on such cards can be scanned, transmitted via the Internet and used to make purchases anywhere in the world in minutes.

&uot;Meanwhile, you don’t know anything like that is going on,&uot; Maxwell said. &uot;Why? Because you haven’t lost your card – it’s in your pocket.&uot;

And make it a habit to check your credit card invoices closely, said Investigator Jimmy Darden of the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

&uot;If enough charges are added, they’ll ‘red flag’ your account, but in the meantime the bad guys get a 15- to 30-day jump on us,&uot; Darden said.

But financial crime is not the only type of cybercrime people need to look out for, because pedophiles can use the Internet to lure children, said Jean Vaughan of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.

&uot;Parents need to become computer savvy,&uot; Vaughan said. &uot;If your kids have been in a chatroom, you need to be able to run a history of where they’ve been.

&uot;Does the child have a ‘buddy list,’ or have they posted a profile with personal information on the Internet? These are the types of things you need to know,&uot; she said.

Parents need to keep the lines of communication open with the children, asking them about their computer use and making sure their children know that people they meet online might not be who they say they are, Vaughan said.

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children also provides the following tips to keeping children safe in cyberspace:

4Never give out identifying information – home address, school name, or telephone number – in public forums such as chatrooms or bulletin boards. Be sure you are dealing with someone both you and your children know and trust before giving out this information via e-mail.

4Do not post photographs of your children on websites or in newsgroups that are available to the public.

4Consider using a pseudonym and avoid listing your child’s name and e-mail address in any public directories and profiles.

4Find out about your Internet service provider’s, or ISP’s, privacy policies and exercise your options for how your personal information may be used.

4Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public place, and be sure to accompany your child.

4Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are threatening or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages.

If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, threatening or of a sexual nature, forward a copy of the message to your ISP and ask for their assistance. You can also report such messages to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline at (800) 843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com.

4Instruct your child not to click on any links that are contained in e-mail from people they don’t know. Such links could lead to sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate websites.

4Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Monitor compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer.

A child’s excessive use of online services or the Internet, especially late at night, may be a clue that there is a potential problem.

4Check out blocking, filtering, and ratings.

4Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child’s bedroom. Get to know their &uot;online friends&uot; just as you get to know all of their other friends.