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Cyber safety a growing concern in Belleville

By Scott Gardner [1] and Brad Bennett [2]

BELLEVILLE – October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and the Ontario Provincial Police want residents to understand the risks online.

Building a campaign through social media, such as their Twitter [3] page, Facebook Live events and government-run cyber safety websites, the OPP aim to stifle one of the fastest-growing methods of crime in the world.

According to getcybersafe.gc.ca [4], cybercrime can be divided into a variety of categories and cybercriminals can take advantage of victims in a variety of ways. For example, a cybercriminal attempting fraud can pretend to be someone they’re not – like a family member or some sort of authority figure. Next, they’ll try to convince a victim that they need to send them money or personal information right away in response to some sort of made-up emergency. The OPP is reminding online users to always be cautious when receiving emails from a source you don’t recognize and never trust an authority who asks you to confirm your identity with personal information like banking information or a driver’s licence.

Canada is one of the world leaders when it comes to time spent online. A case study by comScore Canada [5] found the average Canadian spends almost 40 hours online every month.

Deborah Anderson, owner of a Belleville computer-repair shop called The Computer Store, said she has helped thousands of cybercrime victims over her career. Anderson says she sees on average one or two victims of cybercrime every week come into her store looking for help – most of whom have been scammed out of their money by criminals calling and pretending to be an associate of a legitimate computer company like Microsoft.

Anderson said the criminals convince the victim their computer requires an update or new software and ask for remote control to protect it from a threat that doesn’t exist. Once the victim surrenders control of the computer, the criminal will install software for a fee and in some cases, take absolute control and lock the victim out of their own computer.

Anderson wared against ever speaking to a stranger about your computer over the phone. Repair and service shops like hers can often find a way around these problems.

“A lot of times they aren’t as smart as they think they are,” she said. She encourages people to create a relationship with a local computer retailer they know and trust. These relationships “alleviate a lot of the fear and lack of understanding” that can make people vulnerable to cybercrime, she said.

Online crimes can be reported to Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre [6].