RCMP warn to watch for scams online as shopping season starts

Cases of reported cybercrime are rapidly on the rise in Alberta. VLADIMIR KOLETIC / POSTMEDIA

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If last year’s shopping season is any indication, a lot of Canadians are going to be buying their Christmas gifts online again this year and Alberta RCMP is out with a warning to remind you not to fall victim to cybercrime.

Mounties said cybercrime continues to grow and it is important to protect your identity while online. Cybercrime is defined as any instance where the Internet, or information technology, is used by culprits to victimize people through scams or identity theft.

RCMP have some suggestions to help you stay safe if you’re shopping online like using websites with https instead of http because they are more secure and encrypt sensitive information.

Having a strong password is also very important when going online, according to RCMP. It’s recommended that you change passwords often and use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

With apps being one of the most popular ways to go online, RCMP also advise you only download them from trusted sources like the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

Officers also suggest you never do any banking or financial transactions on public Wi-Fi and don’t save credit card information on any websites.

A recent scam to hit Strathcona County was on Facebook targeting seniors. RCMP said victims would get what appeared to be a Facebook Messenger message from some who appeared to be a friend. The message asked victims to give their full name, address, age and other information and then asked for a fee of $1,500, which the scammers claimed would allow them to access a grant of $100,000 to $200,000.

The scammers asked for residents to send the fee payment through Amazon, Apple, Steam or Google gift cards. RCMP said two residents fell victim to this bamboozle.

Last December, Alberta RCMP reported the number of police-reported cybercrimes doubled over a four-year period and they did not expect it to slow down.

Alberta ranked third-worst province in 2017 when it came to police-reported cybercrimes at 4,668 but was still behind Ontario (9,484) and B.C. (5,603), according to Statistics Canada.

Stats Can does not provide a break down of crime on a province-by-province basis but it does show across Canada that fraud is the most common crime.

RCMP advises anyone who thinks they have been the victims of cybercrime to contact them immediately or report the possible fraud to antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

You can also find more tips on cybercrime safety by following searching #CyberSafety on the RCMP in Alberta Facebook page or on the @RCMPAlberta twitter page.

You can also find out more tips by visiting abcfraud.ca, which has an online quiz to see how well you can recognize a fraud.