Arizona ranks toward the top for Cyber Crime

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - People are taking advantage of you and you may not even know it. Criminals are doing whatever it takes to make a quick buck.

A new report shows Arizona ranks among the top in the nation for cyber attacks.

"You are getting much more sophisticated attacks. You are seeing a lot more attacks by organized crime," said Cris Reid, a Cyber Specialist with ITT Technical Institute.

Reid said cyber thieves are always looking for new victims, especially people in the United States.

"Any criminal that has an Internet connection can be anywhere on the planet. They know that Americans, among other countries, are the easiest to target."

Nick LaFleur with the Southern Arizona BBB says the fraud industry is a multibillion dollar business.

"There's so many viruses out there, so many different schemes to get your personal information, to steal your identity [and] to infect your computer."

It's an industry that continues to grow.

In fact, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, reported that in 2012 alone they received nearly 290,000 complaints, a total loss of nearly $525 million.

That number is up 8 percent from the year before.

Arizona is tops for these kinds of crimes. Our state is number 15 in complaints and number 11 in total loss.

In 2012, Arizona had 5,990 complaints totaling a loss of $11.4 million.

Experts say the most common scam is through your email.

"One of the best things to do if you're not sure it's a real email is hover your mouse over the link and see if your link in the email will take you to the actual website they are claiming to be from," said LeFleur.

And if it's not email, their next stop is social media.

"A lot of times, scam artists will break into your friends' accounts, assume their identity and put out scam postings in order to lure you in."

Another popular scam is the fake cop scam. Just this month, the Pima County Sheriff's Department sent out an alert involving a suspect posing as an officer.

Pima County Deputy Tom Peine says this scam left one victim out thousands of dollars.

"It ends up in a situation where they are asking the victim to come to a bank, meet them there and hand over the money," said Deputy Peine.

Deputy Peine says law enforcement will never ask someone to go to the bank and ask for money.

With this one, criminals use a cell phone app to change their number, making it seem they are calling from the police department.

Experts say these crimes are becoming so popular, they now have a new cyber crime name for them, called 'smishing.'

"They'll send you a text with a link. A lot of times, these links in the text messages have malware that will affect your Smartphone, actually steal your personal information from your Smartphone. It could track your whereabouts; it can do all sorts of really bad things," said LeFleur with the BBB.

Cyber experts say passwords should also be a thing of the past, especially since they are so easy to crack.

They are longer than passwords and typically contain a phrase.  An example would be Todayisagoodday!

According to Microsoft, when you make a passphrase you should make it strong.  They say it's a good idea to use passphrases for added security because they are more difficult to guess or crack.

To learn more on how to prevent being a victim of Internet crime, click here.

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