The overall number of incidents of fraud, identity theft and identity fraud being reported to Edmonton police went up a staggering 89 per cent in just five years.
On Wednesday, the police force released numbers from 2013 through 2017.
In that time frame, fraud reports jumped to 5,963 from 3,306 a year — an 80 per cent increase. Identity theft went up 284 per cent — to 169 from 44 reports a year — and identity fraud was up 145 per cent, to 833 complaints from 339.
In the first nine months of 2018, Edmonton police said it saw a further 9.5 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.
Identity theft is when a person’s personal information is collected for criminal purposes, and identity fraud is the actual deceptive use of the info, according to RCMP.
Edmonton police say that for the most part, the types of scams remain the same. Fraudsters continue to pose as police officers and other government bodies like the CRA in an attempt to obtain money from citizens.
Police say criminals often contact victims in a variety of ways, including over the phone, e-mail, text or social media. EPS say in many cases, the fraudsters often speak the same language as their victims and their calls may appear to come from legitimate police or government phone numbers.
What has changed is the way criminals are convincing people to hand money over.
“While gift cards were once the preferred payment of choice, fraudsters are now increasingly demanding payment in other forms such as BitCoin and e-transfers,” Const. Tuyen Nguyen with the EPS Cyber Crimes Investigations Unit said.
Earlier this year Edmonton police put up signs near BitCoin machines at cafes across the city, including inside the Remedy café in Terwillegar Towne.
The signs warn users that government bodies and police agencies do not accept payment for taxes and fines through BitCoin.
Police said as the year progressed, officers continued to receive regular reports of online fraud and identity theft and felt additional crime prevention messaging was required.
Const. Kyle Pepper said front counter staff at several police stations noticed an increase of reports of fraud and identity theft.
“More specifically, we noticed the large majority of complainants were newcomers to the Edmonton area,” Pepper said.
Because of that, police said they have developed a brochure that will be available at all divisional stations and at other agencies that assist newcomers. The force said it plans to have the brochures available in multiple languages in the near future.
The fraud awareness messaging will also appear in multi-language ads across the city and online, starting in 2019.
RCMP say in most fraud cases, criminals are looking for information like your full name, birthday, Social Insurance Number, address, signature, as well as things like your username and password for online services, driver’s license number, bank account numbers and debit card PINS, credit card info, and passport number.
Here are some fraud prevention tips from Edmonton police, as well as suggestions on what to do if you are a victim:
Citizens are reminded that government bodies such as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP):
- Do not threaten deportation or arrests of family members for non-payment
- Do not demand immediate payment of taxes or fines over the phone via email or through social media
- Do not accept BitCoin, gift cards, e-mail or money transfers as a valid form of payment
Police say you should not provide personal or banking information by phone, email, text or social media as it may result in the loss of money and/or identity theft.
Anyone who believes they may have been defrauded this way is encouraged to contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or dial #377 from a mobile phone. Contacting Equifax and Transunion, Canadian credit monitoring agencies is also recommended.
If you have not lost money, but suspect you have been targeted, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.