Cyber-thieves increasingly use the Internet to target victims

We rely on them more and more every day, whether we use a smart phone, laptop or a tablet computer. And we’re not alone.

The latest cyber-crime figures from the U.S. Department of Justices’ I-C-3, Internet-Computer Crime’s Task Force shows cyber-thieves are increasingly turning to the Internet and computer and looking for new victims to rip off.

Peruvian businessman Paul Gobitas worries about being “hacked” whenever he does business in South Florida.

“They can access your personal information and they can steal your identity,” he suggested. “If they are smart enough and they are targeting you, they could access your company files, they could access your company strategies, they could access very, very important confidential information.”

So I asked him, “Is it happening today?”

“Absolutely,” he replied. Sandra Diaz is a Doral businesswoman who heads up a telecommunication company.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “Someone is spying on us and we don’t even know who is there.”

A just-released national study found cybercrime is a solid growth industry. Almost 290,000 incidents were reported last year. And that’s up more than 8 percent over 2011, with total losses exceeding $500 million.

Florida’s already the worst place in the nation for identity theft and tax refund frauds. It has the second highest rate of cybercrime complaints nationwide with almost 19,000 incidents and total losses last year exceeding $34 million.

Cyber Security consultant Mike Scheidell said hi-tech financial scams aimed at cracking bank accounts and passwords are on the rise. Has he seen people who’ve actually had their bank accounts drained because of this?

Yeah totally drained, people and companies that have had their bank accounts drained,” he replied. “It’s getting worse.”

Nationally the top cyber scams include fraudulent auto sales, phony email solicitations, extortion and phony offers for home and apartment rentals. And that’s why cyber security specialists say a lot more needs to be done right now to protect your computer data from cyber-thieves.

“Your identity is all you have right now and in the world,” Scheidell said. “Data is the new currency. Information and data are the new currency.”

Watch Al Sunshine’s “4 Money Watch” reports Monday Friday. You may find Al’s blog at

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