Herald and Journal, Aug. 27, 2001

Task force seeks to protect women from Internet crime

By Lynda Jensen

The Internet is an electronic link that offers limitless information and resources.

But as with almost anything, there is a dark side to it that few have yet experienced in small towns, said Janis Ludwig, a Minnesotan who serves as director of an Internet task force for women.

Ludwig, who is from Dassel, is the Director of the International Women's Task Force, which is a specialized unit of InterGov International.

IWTF acts as a help center for women around the world facing Internet crimes, and related issues, Ludwig said.

The executive director is from Oklahoma, and deputy director is from Delaware, Ludwig said. "We are dedicated to fighting Internet crime targeted toward women," Ludwig said.

Ludwig works with the Meeker County Sheriff's Department and Meeker County crime advocate Sharon Dickey.

Crime via computer

Many people who use the Internet would be surprised to learn that crimes can take place via their computers, Ludwig said.

Information can be collected from just about anyone, and used against them, Ludwig said.

In one example, a woman received e-mailed death threats. The attacker created a web site designed to humiliate the woman, and even called her work place in an attempt to get her fired, Ludwig said.

The victim never met her attacker in person, Ludwig said.

"She had no clue as to who was doing this to her," she said. This went on for nearly two years until her attacker started to make sexual threats to her teenage 13-year old son, Ludwig said. This prompted the woman to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation and also InterGov Web-Police.

Taking precautions

"Be very careful to whom you give personal information, and where you post this information on the Internet," Ludwig said.

Suggestions for safety are:

· Use passwords that have no relation to the user as a person.

· Avoid using obviously feminine names in chat rooms, IRC channels, bulletin boards and e-mail.

· Learn anti-abuse policies that are in place within each cyber community and use them to protect yourself.

· Be aware of the numerous web sites that collect very detailed personal information about a person, such as Anywho.com. Request that this personal information be removed from the database, she said.

· Never give credit card or banking information in a non-secure environment. When making a purchase from a web site, read the company's security policy about privacy information.

· For children, it is a good idea to have your computer located out in the open, where the adult can supervise the child, she said.

For further suggestions, such as installing firewalls, anti virus applications, and how to check computers for evidence of intrusion, contact the task force web site at: www.intergov.org and specifically for women the www.safferconsulting.com/iwtf/index.htm.

For those who are subjected to Internet crime, Ludwig advised the following:

1. To contact local law enforcement first. Their experience with Internet crimes varies greatly from agency to agency, she said. For example, some larger cities have departments dedicated solely to Internet crimes.

2. Also, fill a crime form report out at the InterGov International web site: www.intergov.org.

InterGov determines if it is a legitimate complaint and assigns the case to one of its officers. The women's task force is designed and operated by female officers of InterGov International. InterGov, founded by Mr. Peter Hampton, has been serving the Internet community since 1986, Ludwig said.

The task force is one of several other agencies, including International Web Police, Scam Watch, Child Center, Explorers Unit, Internet Law Enforcement and Law Enforcement Training Academy.

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