REGINA – As the internet continues to evolve, so does the complexity of cyber crimes.
Dr. Alec Couros has long-been a victim of online identity theft. For at least the past eight years, his photo has been used in online romance scams.
“I have such a large digital profile because of the work that I do. I do hundreds of presentations a year, so I’m photographed a lot,” said Couros, a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina.
Couros is taking issue with what he calls a lack of education on cyber crimes from Canadian police. This comes following a recent complaint he filed about a fake passport with his photo.
“That victim blaming mentality left a bad taste in my mouth,” said Couros. “The immediate response was ‘then you shouldn’t have photos online’ but in my line of work it’s unavoidable.”
The number of identity fraud complaints is steadily increasing. This year to date, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports 5,967 complaints of identity fraud, which is nearly the total amount for 2014.
“These statistics are based on about five per cent only of the person reporting to us that they have been a victim of a crime,” said RCMP Cpl. Josée Rousseau, who works at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
The Regina Police Service has just one person dedicated to investigating tech crimes.
“Is it enough? You could probably find no end of offences out there to investigate,” said Elizabeth Popowich with the Regina Police Service. Laying charges is extremely difficult, especially when the perpetrator is across the world.
The most common piece of advice to prevent identity theft is often increasing privacy settings. Couros said having a digital presence has its advantages.
“Developing a strong digital presence, giving people if they Googled you a way to actually communicate and find the real you,” said Couros.
His best advice if your identity is stolen is don’t panic: “Once you pull down everything, you have destroyed the mechanism for people to find out the real you.”