BALDWIN — Cyber crime and online fraud can happen to anyone. 2-1-1 is now available to assist Lake County residents who feel they have been a victim of cyber crime.

Dimitria Gavit, community outreach representative for 2-1-1 Cyber crime services out of Grand Rapids, presented information to the Lake County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Feb. 26, saying that these services are now live in Lake County.

“If anyone thinks they have been a victim or feel they might be under attack, they can call 2-1-1 and get the support they need,” Gavit said.

Officials don’t really know the true rate of cyber crime or the true cost when it comes to financial losses, Gavit said. The FBI estimates that only 10% to 15% of cyber crimes are reported.

People call 9-1-1 or file police reports, but they are not getting the support and the services they need, she added. 9-1-1 operators do not have access to the same resources, and often law enforcement may not have jurisdiction over where the cyber crimes occur.

“Cyber crimes can come from anywhere in the world. The criminals are everywhere, so police cannot narrow down where it is coming from or if it is in their jurisdiction,” she said. “People are tying up the 9-1-1 lines that are needed for emergencies, and police reports are not being followed up on.”

“Our 2-1-1 CEO wanted to create an easy way for people to both report cyber crime and get support,” Gavit said.

2-1-1 already existed to assist people with human services support, connecting them with a variety of services including housing assistance, food assistance, paying bills and support in family crisis or community disasters.

"We decided to start a program where victims can call 2-1-1 to report cyber crime and get the help they need," she said.

Gavit said they have met with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department to make sure law enforcement is aware of the resource, and have spoken with 9-1-1 operators so they know the services are available and can refer callers to the 2-1-1 service.

“Specialists at 2-1-1 can help callers navigate through the resources they need to recover from the crime and help them reinforce their security afterward,” Gavit said.

Cyber crimes victim support specialist Ruthie Paulson said cyber crime happens most often to the most vulnerable populations — young people in their 20s, or seniors.

“2-1-1 is like triage for those types of calls,” she said. “2-1-1 has the time to provide resources for callers. We can help them know what to do if their computer has been hacked or if they are getting scam emails.”

Criminals are very good at manipulating the victims, she said, telling them they can be arrested, or pretending to be someone the victim knows and asking for money.

“These crimes are happening every day, and it is difficult for law enforcement to pursue them,” Paulson said. “We have the resources to assist the victim and report the crime to the proper authorities.”

There are currently six specialists on staff to take calls 24 hours a day, Paulson said. If the line is busy, someone will call back.

Local 2-1-1 offers access to the National Cyber Crime Victim resource database that provides guidance on how to report a crime, how to recover from a crime and how to reinforce security after a crime. The service is free and confidential and offers multilingual assistance.

Additional information and services are also available at fraudsupport.com, a cybercrime support network.