Attorney General Fox Announces Cybercrime Agent, Pending Partnership with FBI to Fight Cybercrime
At a Helena press conference today, Attorney General Tim Fox introduced the Montana Department of Justice’s new cybercrime agent and announced his agency’s pending partnership with the FBI’s cybercrime initiative, Operation Wellspring. In addition to the new agent, Kati Stewart, Fox was joined by DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Administrator Bryan Lockerby, Montana Office of Consumer Protection Chief Mark Mattioli, and Supervisory Special Agent Jeff Collins from the FBI’s Salt Lake City office.
Stewart is part of DCI’s Computer and Internet Crime Unit (CICU), which also houses its new human trafficking investigation team, forensic computer examiners, and internet crimes against children investigators. Stewart is based in Billings and will support DOJ’s ongoing mission to protect Montana citizens from cybercrime and to respond to cyberattacks. The 2019 Legislature authorized the additional position for DCI, the first ever dedicated to working cybercrime cases in the state.
“The addition of this new position, coupled with our intent to join the FBI’s cybercrime task force, means Montana will have increased tools to address cybercrimes,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “This partnership will serve as a resource multiplier for our agency and enable law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes like identity theft, hacking, and cyber extortion so these bad actors can be brought to justice, including those who hide beyond Montana’s borders,” Fox added.
Supervisory Special Agent Jeff Collins from the FBI’s Salt Lake City office said, “As cybercrime has become commonplace and more sophisticated, initiatives like Operation Wellspring allow law enforcement to take a holistic approach to combat this persistent threat. The invaluable partnerships we have through our cyber task forces equip us with the expertise and assets to strengthen our cyber posture.”
Fighting online fraud will be another important component of Stewart’s duties. In 2013, Montana’s Office of Consumer Protection received nearly 1,500 fraud complaints, which rose to over 3,500 last year. “As my Office of Consumer Protection receives fraud complaints from citizens, they’ll provide this information to our new cybercrime agent so she can pursue these offenders. I encourage Montanans to continue to report suspected fraud to local law enforcement or to my consumer protection team,” Fox added.
In its annual Internet Crime Report, the FBI reported its Internet Crime Complaint Center received 351,937 complaints in 2018. The most frequent complaints were for non-payment/non-delivery scams, extortion, and personal data breaches. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromise, romance or confidence fraud, and investment scams, like Ponzi and pyramid schemes. Montana ranked 41st for total losses by victim per state, with over $6.6 million reported.