Nova Scotia

Cybercrime is going up across Canada and most cases remain unsolved

People are using the internet to commit crimes more than ever before, with women twice as likely than men to be targeted and with fraud accounting for half of all reported cybercrime cases across Canada.

Statistics Canada analyzed data from police forces, found there were 7,727 victims in 2018

Statistics Canada gathered data from police agencies across Canada. The Saint John Police Force is only agency not included. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

People are using the internet to commit crimes more than ever before, with women twice as likely than men to be targeted and with fraud accounting for half of all reported cybercrime cases across Canada.

Statistics Canada compiled data gathered from nearly every police force in the country and found there were 7,727 victims and 32,968 cases in 2018.

The crimes range from uttering threats to extortion and identity fraud. Women were listed as the victim in 68 per cent of all cases.

Offences are flagged when information and communication technology, like a computer or cellphone, is the target of the crime or used to commit an offence, said Rebecca Kong, manager of the Policing Services Program at Statistics Canada. 

She said violations can involve text message, social media or email exchanges. 

"Some of those types of what we call violations against person — like harassment, intimidation, luring, even invitations to commit certain behaviours — can happen using those technologies," Kong said. 

Most cybercrime cases still not solved

It also appears rare for someone to be charged or for the matter to be considered resolved.

For example, 75.4 per cent of sexual violations — including child luring, child pornography and voyeurism — were not cleared, meaning they weren't solved.

The perpetrators of property crimes also appear difficult to find, with 95.7 of cases unsolved. Out of 272 cases of identity theft, all but three remained open. So did 15,746 cases of fraud.

"It definitely speaks to how crimes are being committed now and it's no longer the traditional fashion. And I think some of the clearance information also shows that it can be a challenge for police to solve these types of incidents as well," said Kong. 

N.S. has highest per capita rate of cybercrime

The national statistics agency found Nova Scotia has by far the highest rate of reported cybercrime of any province, with an average of 231.6 incidents per 100,000 residents. The national average was 89.4. 

The only jurisdiction to have a higher rate was Lethbridge, Alta., at 300.8 incidents for every 100,000 people. 

The number of reported incidents in Nova Scotia increased about 70.5 per cent since 2016. 

It's not possible to get a national rate from the same time period as some large police forces weren't reporting for that whole period. Excluding the Ontario Provincial Police, Calgary Police Service and the Saint John Police Force, the number of cybercrimes went up 23 per cent between 2016 and 2018.

Statistics Canada considers cybercrime criminal acts where information and technology is the target of the crime, or when it was central to committing an offence. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

No provinces saw an overall decline, though Nunavut and some parts of Quebec and Ontario saw fewer total reported incidents in 2018.

King said it's not clear why the rate is so high in Nova Scotia but noted that in Halifax specifically, the cybercrime rate almost doubled in 2018 compared to the previous year.

"It is quite a difference [in Nova Scotia]. And again we're seeing some big increases in rates for things like cyberextortion, indecent harassing communications, uttering threats, fraud as well," she said.

No one from the Halifax Regional Police was immediately available for an interview, but the force sent a statement saying it can't attribute the increase in cybercrime to one factor. Overall, it said there were more cases of fraud and extortion last year.

"We encourage people to report these types of crimes for investigative purposes and to provide a more accurate picture of the cybercrime landscape," Const. Amy Edwards said in an emailed statement. 

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About the Author

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Over the past 10 years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. She can be reached at elizabeth.mcmillan@cbc.ca

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