Attorney General Kamala Harris, who created an “e-Crime unit” so that California can be a leader in using innovative law enforcement techniques to target criminals, says consumers and businesses in the Golden Gate will now have a much needed unit to fight categories of crimes from internet fraud, theft of computer components and devices, intellectual property crimes and identity theft. About 1 million Californians are victims of identity theft annually– amounting to $46 million in losses last year alone.
California joins Texas, Florida and Louisiana, which also have cybercrime units, though California’s scope and mandate will be much broader. Texas’s and Florida’s cybercrime units focus almost exclusively on online child pornography. Louisiana’s unit, which is broader in scope, is a three-person team: an investigator, a prosecutor and a forensics specialist.
There’s a lack of technical know-how at many law enforcement agencies throughout the world, who don’t realize that cybercrime presents a big threat. Harris said some govenment offices in California still are lagging technologically. In order to change this, Harris is also opening a tech center in Fresno to train and assist law enforcement authorities with high-tech investigations, including how to use GPS to determine when and where a cellphone photo was taken and to retrieve evidence from smartphones.
The unit now has 20 active cases and 17 more that are under investigation. Cases such as the possession of counterfeit jewelry from five different companies, and identity-theft scam at ATM vestibules accross seven counties are all being handled by this unit. But are we safe from being a victim?