What is Cybercrime?

Broadly, cybercrime (or “computer crime”) is a term for any illegal activity that uses a computer system, the internet, or computer technology as its primary means of commission. Different types of cybercrime include cyberbullying, revenge porn, hacking, identity theft, financial fraud, child soliciting/abuse, and stalking.

  • Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. This could be in the form of mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, fake social media profiles, or embarrassing pictures, videos, websites. Check out our “Bullying/Cyberbullying” crime section for more information for victims of cyberbullying.
  • Revenge Porn consists of sexually explicit photos/videos/etc. that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured/videoed individual. It is often uploaded by ex-partners to shame or embarrass the pictured/videoed individual, or by hackers.
  • Hacking occurs when a person’s computer is broken into so that his/her personal or sensitive information can be accessed. Hackers use a variety of software to enter the victim’s computer and this can even happen from a remote location.
  • Identity Theft occurs when a criminal accesses data about a person’s sensitive information such as their bank account, credit cards, Social Security, debit card, etc. The criminal uses this information to get money or buy things online in the victim’s name. This not only results in financial losses but may also greatly affect the victim’s credit history.
  • Financial Fraud is often the way that a criminal obtains information to commit identity theft. It comes in a variety of forms, one of the most common being e-mail scams where the criminal asks for confidential information via e-mail. Another common type of financial fraud occurs when a criminal calls or sends a message to a victim pretending to be a relative in need of money and asks that the money be transferred to an account. Check out our “Financial Fraud” crime section for more crime types and how to deal with each.
  • Child Soliciting and Abuse generally occurs when criminals solicit minors via chat rooms for the purpose of child pornography.
  • Cyber Stalking is the use of any electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or organization. It often comes in the form of a barrage of online messages and emails containing false accusations, defamation, slander, or libel. It may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass. This crime is often paired with offline stalking.

How to protect yourself from being victimized…

  • Create long, strong passwords. Make them unique to each account to create a stronger barrier against online criminals. If you write the passwords down, store them in a safe location
  • Avoid anything suspicious. If you receive an email requesting your personal information, do not respond. Do not forward suspicious links – delete them or mark them as junk.
  • Make your social media accounts private. Make sure your profile is visible only to your contacts to that criminals cannot use your information against you.
  • Keep your security software updated. This can protect you from viruses or other security threats.
  • Know when a site is untrusted. If the link has “https:” rather than simply “http:” then it is generally considered a “security-enabled” website. When shopping or banking, make sure that the link starts with “https:” before you enter any private information.

What to do if you believe you’re the victim of a cybercrime…

In cases of Identity Theft, Financial Fraud, and Hacking:

  • Collect and keep evidence including:
    • Canceled checks
    • Certified or other mail receipts
    • Chatroom or newsgroup text
    • Credit card receipts
    • Envelopes (if you’ve received any items)
    • Log all files with date, time, and time zone
    • Messages from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media in hard copy, if possible
    • Emails in hard copy, if possible
    • Web pages in hard copy, if possible
    • Money order receipts
    • Pamphlets/brochures
    • Phone bills
    • Wire receipts
  • Change passwords for all online accounts
  • Close any unauthorized or compromised credit or charge accounts
  • Think about what other personal information may be at risk
  • File a report with your local law enforcement agency and/or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (see resources below).
  • If stolen money or identity is involved, contact one of the three credit bureaus to report the crime (Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, or TransUnion at1-800-680-7289).
  • If you believe someone is using your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administrations fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

In cases of Online Stalking:

  • If the offender is known, send him/her a clear written warning saying that the contact is unwanted and asking that the stalker stop sending communications of any kind.
  • Save copies of all communications from the stalker (emails, messages on social media, text messages) and document each contact with the date and time. Print out these communications, if possible
  • File a complaint with the stalker’s Internet Service provider and your own. They may offer tools that filter or block communications from specific people.
  • Set your security and privacy settings on social networks and other services to your comfort level of sharing.
  • Consider changing your email address.
  • Report the criminal activity to local law enforcement and/or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (see resources below).

In cases of Cyberbullying:

  • Tell a trusted adult about what’s going on.
  • Save any of the related emails, texts, or messages as evidence in hard copy if possible.
  • Keep a record of any cyberbullying related incidents.
  • Report the incident to the website’s administrator; many websites (Facebook, Youtube) encourage users to report cyberbullying and may take steps toward stopping the problem.
  • Block the person on social networks and in email.
  • Do NOT respond to the bully – this may only provoke them and give them what they want.
  • Consider changing your email address.
  • Report the criminal activity to local law enforcement and/or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (see resources below).

In cases of Revenge Porn/Child Solicitation and Abuse

  • Report the criminal activity to local law enforcement immediately.
  • Keep a record of all interactions or incidents, including the date and time and what website any of the activity occurred on.
  • Consider filing a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center or the CyberTipLine(see resources below).
  • Find support from friends/family and from a professional if therapy is needed.

Resources for victims of cybercrime…

State Resources:

  • California Attorney General
    Fraud reporting & consumer complaints.
    P.O. Box 944255
    Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
    Phone: (800) 952-5255
    Fax: (916) 323-5341
  • Identity Theft Resource Center
    Phone: (888) 400-5530
  • Los Angeles Electronic Crimes Task Force
    Phone: (213) 894-4830

National Resources:

  • Internet Crime Complaint Center
    File a complaint online at:
  • Better Business Bureau
    Report suspicious email, phone call, website, business practice
    3033 Wilson Blvd, Suite 600
    Arlington, VA 22201
    Phone: (703) 276-0100
  • CyberTipLine
    Investigations cases of online sexual exploitation of children.
    699 Prince Street
    Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3175
    Phone: (703) 224-2150
    Fax: (703) 224-2122
    Victims of fraud resources & fraud reporting.
    Phone: (202) 514-2000
  • US Department of Justice: Computer Crime Section
    10th & Constitution Ave., NW
    John C. Keeney Building, Suite 600
    Washington, DC 20530
    Phone: (202) 514-1026
    Fax: (202) 514-6113

Go to the homepage to find resources in your county including Victim Assistance Centers and local law enforcement agencies.