#romancescams | Hotline to expand resources for cybercrime victims in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A large portion of cybercrime that hits Grand Rapids residents and businesses each year goes unsolved.

The Grand Rapids Police Department doesn’t have the resources necessary to track such global crime. But now local police have some help.

The department announced this week it has partnered with Cybercrime Support Network to help victims through the Heart of West Michigan United Way’s 211 hotline.

Through the initiative, individuals who have experienced a cybercrime may call 211 to get immediate help from a trained professional with expert knowledge.

“The partnership between the Grand Rapids Police Department, Cybercrime Support Network and Heart of West Michigan United Way is an excellent example of how collaboration can work in law enforcement,” Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said in a prepared statement.

“With identity theft, frauds and scams on the rise, this is another tool we can use to help individuals who have experienced these crimes. It gets victims the resources they need and helps repair the damage done by cybercriminals.”

The partnership will help individuals address such issues as fraud schemes, hacked accounts and identity thefts. It’ll help small businesses with malware attacks, data breaches and website intrusions.

Residents who experience cybercrime can call the 211 hotline or contact GRPD. Local police will still be dispatched to cyber-related crime where there’s an immediate threat to life or property or any incident involving children.

Local police will also continue to take complaints where there is an investigative lead or a local connection that requires follow-up.

When there isn’t a local connection, however, local police department staff will put victims in touch with the experts at 211 to assist them.

“This extends our ability to get people remedies,” said Sgt. John Wittkowski. “They can go further than we possibly could.”

The Cybercrime Support Network is a nonprofit collaborative effort that helps victims of cybercrime nationally and provides resources for cybercrime reporting and recovery. FraudSupport.org, powered by CSN, is a resource database for cybercrime victims and law enforcement to report, recover and reinforce after an incident occurs.

The initiative was first rolled out in summer 2019 as a partnership between the state of Michigan and the Heart of West Michigan United Way. Grand Rapids became a partner this year.

In 2018, victims reported losing $143 million to romance scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The same year, more than 350,000 complaints from individuals and small businesses were filed with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center for monetary losses of more than $2.7 billion.

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