In the past 10 years, we have grown almost entirely dependent on technology to manage our lives; we are online all the time. From planning our social lives and booking appointments, to shopping, banking and even filing taxes, so much of our lives happen in that great abyss known as the World Wide Web.
And while it has made our lives easier in many ways, it has also created the perfect fishing hole for criminals from literally all over the world.
The Delta Police Department has 180 sworn police officers and 65 police staff. If we allocated 100 per cent of our resources to online crime and fraud, we still would not come close to putting a dent in the fraud and attempted fraud that occurs online. Delta Police is proud of its “no call too small” philosophy but when it comes to fraud, we are turning our focus more to prevention and education because we simply cannot police so much of what happens online.
More often than not, these crimes are not perpetrated by criminals in Delta and instead originate from countries in other parts of the world. This makes it virtually impossible to trace, much less slap a set of handcuffs on anybody for it. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported that Canadians are defrauded of about $100 million every year. It’s a lucrative business and the bad guys take advantage of new technology to do their work.
Being defrauded can bring with it a sense of embarrassment but the reality is, scams have become so sophisticated that you have to be vigilant to avoid being victimized. There is a scam out there for all of us: Identity theft, vacation scams, tax scams, romance scams and employment scams target a variety of different demographics, and criminals are moving into the social media world with an eye on millennials and younger.
Some of the most common frauds involve identity theft from government issued ID and credit cards stolen from vehicles. There are also Craigslist and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scams, and Microsoft scams whereby a person posing as a Microsoft employee contacts you saying they have detected a virus on your computer and can remove it for a fee.
Now, before you resort to hiding your money under the mattress, consider some modern solutions to protecting yourself from these common frauds:
Don’t leave your wallet or purse unattended or even in your locked vehicle. Shred all bills, bank statements and any other documents that contain identity information prior to placing them in the trash. Regularly check your bank account for any unusual activity. Check your mailbox daily to prevent theft of mail. Arrange to pick up new cards such as credit cards at your bank rather than having them mailed to your home address. And don’t open any unknown emails, respond to unsolicited requests for personal information or click on random “pop ups” on your computer.
Neither the CRA nor any bank will ever ask for payment or personal information through money transfer or gift cards or ask for personal information via phone, email or text message.
Criminals are some of the most inventive and adaptive people in our society. They learn very quickly where our weaknesses are and they take advantage. So much of the millions of dollars lost to fraud is handed over to criminals willingly by unsuspecting Canadians. While Delta Police will do everything in our power to investigate and hold offenders accountable, cybercrime has no borders and prevention starts with you.
For more information on fraud and how to protect yourself, call us or visit antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.
Neil Dubord is the Delta Police Department’s chief constable. He joined the DPD on June 29, 2015 after three years as chief of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police and 25 years with the Edmonton Police Service.