Monday, June 24, 2024

Stay Aware Online to Prevent Fraud

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Police are urging everyone online to take simple steps to protect themselves from online fraud.

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To mark Cyber Security Awareness Month in October, Toronto Police Service’s Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit (CPEU) partnered with the Coordinated Cyber Centre (C3) to host a cybersecurity awareness event at the Toronto Police College on October 17.

C3 Detective Constable Ryan Braganza said there has been a drastic increase in cyber-related scams in the past few years – many involving cryptocurrency.

In 2021, cryptocurrency losses in Toronto amounted to over $17 million.

“Scammers of all sorts are always finding new ways to steal your money and now they are learning how to scam people using cryptocurrency,” said Braganza. “Some of the main sub-categories of cryptocurrency fraud are investment, romance, grandparent and government-impersonation scams.”

The C3 has collaborated with CPEU to attach information posters to over 900 ATMs in Toronto, warning people about the scams before they make the transaction.

Representatives from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Peel Regional Police attended the event to remind the public about the importance of cybersecurity and the steps they can take to protect themselves from cyber-related frauds.

John Armit of the OPP and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said 2021 was historic for frauds reported to the centre.

“The losses totaled $380 million which was a dramatic increase from the $164 million that we saw in 2020,” he said. “As of September 2022, reported losses have totaled $362 million. With just three months remaining, we are going to exceed last year’s historic losses.”

Armit said Ontario residents represent $142 million of the $380 million in fraud losses reported to the CAFC last year.

“We have to remember that it is estimated that only five per cent of victims report their frauds to CAFC and law enforcement,” said Armit. As of July 2022, investment frauds represented over $135 million and last year was $163 million.

He added that cryptocurrency payments to fraudsters jumped to $77 million in 2022, which is more than $33 million reported in 2020.

“As of today, our losses are reportedly $87 million and we expect that to increase,” noted Armit.

CPEU Superintendent LeeAnn Papizewski said making people aware of the various scams on the digital landscape is critical.

“I think it is appropriate that we are hosting this kickoff at our Training facility because raising awareness is about learning and putting into practice what we learn,” she said. “That is the goal of today, to learn, share information and prevent crime. As cryptocurrency continues to become increasingly popular, so are the fraudulent scams associated to it as a result.”

Papizewski said community safety is a shared responsibility.

“I am very excited to see our Crime Prevention Team working together with our Greater Toronto Area policing partners to raise awareness and better inform the public about how to protect themselves from being a victim of cybercrime,” she added. “Crime has no boundaries, especially in relation to cybercrime. Working together only strengths our efforts to protect you.”

Important cybersecurity reminders:

  • Credible institutions will not force you to pay with cryptocurrency
  • They will not ask you to pay with reward cards such as Apple store cards, Google Play cards, gaming cards or other types of reward cards
  • Limit the amount of personal information that you share on social media sites
  • Do not click on links or attachments from suspicious emails, text messages or social media
  • Do not feel pressured to invest in cryptocurrency
  • Protect your private key if you have cryptocurrency stored in a digital wallet
  • Be wary of websites that claim they can help you recover stolen cryptocurrency. These sites are often fraudulent.

Follow these cybersecurity tips:

  • Keep computer software and hardware up-to-date
  • Avoid opening suspicious emails
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware protection
  • Check links before you click
  • Use strong passwords or passphrases
  • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts
  • Enable 2-Factor authentication
  • Double check for HTTPS on websites
  • Do not store important information in non-secure places
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi
  • Back up important data

If you have lost money as a result of a scam, contact Toronto Police Service at 416-808-2222.

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