Experts: Cybercrimes, online insecurity now the norm - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Experts: Cybercrimes, online insecurity now the norm

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Every second, nearly 18 people globally become a victim of a cybercrime. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in the U.S. about 1,000 people have their identities stolen each day.

Det. Michael Gomez with Metro's Identity Crimes Section delves through mounds of paperwork each day, looking for encrypted messages that might signal a cybercrook.

"Per the FTC, there's an average of eight people in Nevada a day that become a new victim as of 2012," Gomez said.

Gomez said that typically crooks will try to target victims through email or text messages that address someone by their first name and ask that person to check something out.

He said phishing emails are some of the worst, and in one particular case, a hacker posed as Bank of America, sending an email to someone asking for personal information.

The result, Gomez said, can be devastating to someone's bank account, credit history and even the ability to apply for a home or car loan.

"We've had individuals run it [credit report] and find they've been bankrupt twice. They've owned houses in other states. I think the worst we've had is a 5-year-old that owns a Lamborghini."

Gomez said what's most concerning is not only how easy it is to hack someone's information, but how easy it is for someone's information to get used multiple times.

Kevin Haley, director at Symantec Security Response, said online surveys can also pose a risk.

"People seem to be very willing to give out information about themselves online, and they need to be careful, especially in the cases of these online surveys," Haley said.

Haley said many surveys are legitimate, but others, such as weight-loss gimmicks or other quick-earning cash gimmicks, are often run by hackers.

Symantec delivers cybersecurity to computers or smartphones through products that protect against malware.

But Haley admits, as software becomes more advanced, so too do hackers.

"We are seeing a shift over time from the real world into the virtual world; it's much safer for bad guys, it's harder to get caught," Haley said.

Dr. Robert Manis is a sociology professor at College of Southern Nevada who teaches and studies online trends. Manis said the internet has changed drastically from what it was a decade ago.

"If you want to think about the internet of 10 years ago," Manis said, "it's a different beast."

Manis said he notices that younger adults seem to be more savvy and know how to navigate the inner workings of the online world and smartphones better than anyone.

While the younger population might be more comfortable, Manis said that the more comfortable someone is, the more at risk he or she actually becomes.

"It does kind of speak to one of the issues of familiarity with something. When you become familiar with it, it seems less risky," Manis said.

"I've gotten emails like that. You've won a grand prize of this or that. So I try not to open those or look at them," said Erick Rosero, a first-year CSN student.

Rosero said he heeds the warnings out there, but he knows some of his friends don't.

"I have some friends that are lacking some brain cells that will open anything that says, 'OK, you've won $1,000.'"

Another CSN student, Sasha Lyte, admits to Googling her name and finding very personal information come up.

"My whole address comes up, the people you're associated with, my parents pop up," Lyte said. "It's all just out there for anybody who wants to search you and find you. It's kind of scary."

When asked whether she had her full birth date with the year posted on Facebook, she admitted that she did.

"I do, actually. I do," Lyte said. "And I know it's bad."

Lyte said the question made her think twice about what she has posted on her social media pages.

"Honestly, I'm going to go sit down and stop what I was doing and go in and change some things on Facebook," she said.

Gomez can attest to this as he's seen identity theft victims getting younger all the time, likely because of social media, and even parents sharing information about their children online.

"There's people that are applying for their first credit card and discovering that their credit is already shot because they've had a bankruptcy or they owe so many people so much money they didn't know about it," Gomez said.

To avoid identity theft, experts say it's important to avoid public Wi-Fi because typically these connections are less secure.

It's also important for someone to know what he or she is filling out online first before clicking on any links and potentially being subject to compromised security.

Both Gomez and Haley say it's equally important to use strong passwords. Also, don't use passwords that phonetically spell out a word.

It's also critical to also avoid spam altogether, whether that's through an email or a cell phone.

Gomez said people are more likely to respond to a sham through a text rather than email because it seems more trustworthy.

"Your smartphones now are small computers," Gomez said. "Most people don't look at them that way. They look at it as an actual cell phone."

It takes anywhere from 30 to 60 days to have each credit hit erased. Gomez said that means if someone has multiple credit hits, it could take six months or more to get it all erased.

The best recommendation, according to experts, is for people to check their credit score annually and if anything suspicious comes up to contact authorities immediately.

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