Cyber Fraud Up Dramatically in British Columbia

23 April 2015

When the Vancouver police first began tracking cyber crime in 2006, there were 39 crimes involving the internet reported. In 2014, that number soared to 426.

The police attribute this rise to the increasing popularity of conducting business, shopping and banking online, which has attracted more criminals to the online realm as more personal and financial information is shared there.

“The Internet is becoming a more and more commonplace method of conducting business and doing research. It stands to reason that crimes related to it are going to increase,” Sgt. Tony Cavezza of the Vancouver Police Department’s financial crime unit told The Province.

At the end of March, which marked the 11th annual Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, The Province conducted a survey of B.C. residents in cooperation with MNP and Mustel Group to gauge their attitudes and behaviors toward cyber crime.

What they found is encouraging, if you’re a scammer. Half of the survey respondents said that they hadn’t installed any anti-malware software, and half don’t set their devices to lock automatically. Only a paltry 3 percent of those surveyed said that they changed their passwords regularly, a crucial step to defend against hacking.

According to Evi Mustel of the Mustel Group, this lack of caution may stem from ignorance of the true prevalence of cyber crime and the risks involved. People don’t believe that cyber crime will happen to them, and if it does, they naively believe that it will be easy to recover their losses and undo harm done to their credit. Only 12 percent of people surveyed perceived the risk of financial losses from cyber crime as high, while 49 percent see it as low.

“Since people perceive the risk of cyber-crime as low, limited precautions are being taken, ultimately making people even more vulnerable,” Mustel told The Province. “In addition, I believe there is a false sense of security that the credit card companies or banks will cover the losses.”

In reality, of the 16 percent of those surveyed who had experienced cyber crime, 36 percent never recovered the losses they sustained from the incident and 27 percent fear becoming a victim of the same type of crime again.

Cyber criminals may also be encouraged by the low rate at which this type of crime is reported to police. Only 18 percent of people surveyed who had been a victim of cyber crime reported it to the police, although 70 percent reported it to their bank or credit card company.

So why is B.C. such a hot spot for cyber crime? According to Jacklyn Davies of MNP, it may be because of the substantial population of elderly, retired people in the province. Since this demographic is less likely to know about online security risks and how to protect themselves from them, they are seen as vulnerable by scammers and fraudsters. Additionally, says Davies, seniors are often more trusting and therefore more willing to send money or give up personal information to strangers. Meanwhile, younger people who have grown up with the internet know to be suspicious of people they meet there, making them less attractive targets for fraud attempts.

“Plus, they don’t have the money older people do,” said Davies.

If you fear identity theft or credit fraud as a result of cyber crime, you may want to look into a credit monitoring service to alert you to certain types of activity in your credit file.