Why Do We Treat Cybercrime Differently than Real-Life Crime?

Share Now


What would you do if you were the victim of a crime? For example, what if you walk out to your car after work and find the window smashed and the stereo stolen? Wouldn’t you call the police?

Imagine that, this weekend, you’re leaving a bar with some friends. A man walks up, points a gun at you and demands your wallet. You’d call the police, right?

Now pretend you receive an email saying that the bank needs you to reset your password. You go to the provided website in the email and the next time you check your balance there’s $500 missing. Who would you call?

The bank, right?

Our first inclination is to call the police when we’re the victims of crime in real life. Why do we treat cybercrime differently than any other type of crime?

When it comes to punishing cybercriminals, the biggest obstacle is that they’re usually too far away from their victims. Even if they’re caught, the court fees, travel expenses to the court, and lodging normally outweigh the amount stolen. It’s easier to just call the bank and try to get your money back. While this isn’t exactly “right”, it’s currently the easiest course of action when dealing with online theft.

Another problem is how the general populace treats cybercrime. When a victim’s front door is kicked in and their house robbed, we immediately blame the criminal. When your online banking information is stolen, we typically point the finger at the victim and scold them for not having the most up-to-date antivirus software or firewall.

In terms of reporting criminal activity, the government does have laws that say we should report every crime to the Department of Justice. Crimes like burglary, aggravated assault, and murder are measured. They do not measure cybercrime. There’s not even a box to check in regards to online theft on a police report.

So why are they not tracking that? Semantics say that there are 18 new victims of cybercrime every second. In 2012, nine million Americans fell victim to fake bank websites, 19 million Americans had money taken off their credit cards without authorization, and 43% of Americans are still experiencing heavy volumes of spam. These seem like pretty steep numbers to not take in account.

In order to change this, we need to embrace the idea that if we see something, we say something.  When cybercrime happens, call the police. If they don’t respond the way you think they should, notify elected officials about the crime. Take the issue to congressmen, senators, governors, DAs and the Attorney General. It needs to be known that we want justice against these crimes and it needs to start with the victim.

How do you think that we can improve enforcement around cybercrime? Share your comments below.

Learn more about this topic by watching Gary’s presentation at TEDx Birmingham here.

Read More Related Phishing Blog Posts


We use our own and third-party cookies to enhance your experience by showing you relevant content, personalizing our communications with you, and remembering your preferences when you visit our website. We also use them to improve the overall performance of our site. You can learn more about the cookies and similar technology we use by viewing our privacy policy. By clicking ‘Accept,’ you acknowledge and consent to our use of all cookies on our website.

This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site.