Although crime rates are dropping across Quebec, cybercrime has skyrocketed in recent years, a provincial report suggests.
In 2013, police investigated 1,939 cases that originated behind a computer screen. That number was up from 1,276 in 2012, marking a 52 per cent increase.
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The report is based on the number of crimes reported to all of the province's municipal police forces as well as the Sûreté du Québec and several indigenous police forces.
The term cybercrime encompasses a variety of different offenses. A total of 51 per cent of all cybercrimes included in the report involved some type of online fraud.
One expert suspects many more incidents go unreported.
"In many cases, people do not even know when they are victims of these crimes," said Mohammed Mannan, a digital security researcher and associate professor at Concordia University's Institute for Information Systems Engineering.
"If a credit card is compromised, people may not notice. Or if a phone is compromised, it can go unnoticed unless you pay close attention to your account statements and activity."
From behind a screen to your doorstep
Two months passed before Nicole Halpert and her husband realized they had been swindled after purchasing a new phone through their compromised Fido mobile account.
A hacker used reward points from the NDG couple's account to purchase an iPhone in their name.
The thief then changed the email address associated with the account to receive delivery updates on the phone.
After eliminating an apartment number from the street address on the account, the thief waited outside their building for the delivery truck with the new phone to arrive.
"It's scary because not only is this cyber-hacking, there are actually thieves that are at your doorstep and who know where you live," Halpert told CBC's Daybreak recently.
"It's really disconcerting."
When the couple received a confirmation email last week indicating that another new iPhone was being delivered, they immediately contacted their provider.
Their account had been breached for the second time.
Halpert said Fido eventually agreed to reimburse her lost reward points.
Although banks and phone companies normally assume the financial loss caused by cyber security breaches, the task of recognizing threats and alerting those companies often lies with the consumer.
Quebec police say awareness and communication with authorities are the best way to avoid the hassles caused by digital fraudsters.
"What we're seeing is that people are becoming more aware of cybercrimes," said Lt. Guy Lapointe of the Sûreté du Québec.
"People would not file complaints for many of these crimes in the past, but they are now."
While fraud accounts for the largest portion of cybercrimes in Quebec, the term includes other crimes that are connected with the digital world.
Child pornography, online harassment and online sex crimes were also included as cybercrime in the Public Security Ministry's report.
"With regards to harassment and threats, inhibitions tend to fall when you're sitting behind a keyboard," Lapointe said.
"People often fail to realize the consequences of what they have typed through social media or email."
Based on the Ministry's analysis, noteworthy increases in reports of specific types of cybercrimes include fraud (39 per cent), child pornography (93 per cent) and harassment (50 per cent).