The Cybercrime Victim Support Initiative is available free of charge to residents in 13 northern Michigan counties, including Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau.
Residents who have been targeted by cyber-criminals can call or text 211 from any phone to report the crime and receive tips on how to recover their personal information and funds.
Calls will be handled by a center in Grand Rapids staffed by trained advisors from United Way, an organization that brings donors, volunteers, and community organizations together to solve critical problems.
In addition to offering practical guidance on what to do after a crime has taken place, the advisors will offer tips on how to avoid being caught in the cyber-criminal’s net.
Data collected by the advisors will be stored in a central database and used to warn Michigan residents of all the latest scams doing the rounds.
Seth Johnson, president of the United Way of Northwest Michigan, said that while most people are aware of old scams like the phishing email that appears to be sent by a Nigerian prince, some of the newer nefarious schemes, including ruses to con Americans out of their COVID-19 stimulus checks, are not common knowledge.
“More and more of us are online and so more and more of us are vulnerable,” Johnson said.
As cybercrime grows ever more sophisticated, the hotline has been established as a place to which residents can turn for clear and reliable guidance.
Johnson said: “This is meant to be a 24/7 resource where they can get the information they need.”
The initiative was launched by the Cybercrime Support Network and Heart of West Michigan United Way in partnership with the Heart of Florida United Way. Funding for the hotline was provided via a Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime Vision 21 Grant.
Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said the hotline is a valuable resource for victims of cybercrime.
Borkovich, who has seen an increase in the number of reported cybercrime incidents since the outbreak of COVID-19, said: “People have no scruples when it comes to things like that. They’ll take advantage of senior citizens and try to rip them off.”
Source: Infosecurity Magazine