Cybercrime is expanding. Once considered the domain of nerds with specialized computer skills, high tech criminals are becoming more common these days as the requisite knowledge becomes more accessible. Common offenders include identity thieves, malicious coders, embezzlers, extortionists, smugglers and child pornographers.
Back in 2003 there were less than two hundred cases of online fraud prosecuted in Canada, but in 2013, only ten years later, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) logged over 16,000 complaints of cyber-related fraud (including email and website scams), accounting for more than $29 million in reported losses. According to the 2013 Norton Report released by U.S.-based software security maker Symantec Corp., an estimated seven million Canadians became victims of cyber-crime that year, with the average cost of per victim being roughly $380.
Not all cyber criminals are as attractive as Jerome Kerviel, who robbed investors using computer trading networks in Paris France. But beauty doesn’t matter so much for internet fraud. In many related cases, including romance related scams, the perpetrator’s victims never see their real faces anyway, unless they get caught.
You can password protect your phone, and your bank account, but can you protect your heart?
Well groomed and attractive people, successful white collar criminals are crafty, charismatic, and well practiced at the art of hiding their tracks. How will you know if your office coworker, or friend, or lover is robbing you, your employer or employees?
Not all white collar criminals are created equal. They can range from a curious adolescent who downloads and distributes copyright content, to the office worker who copies business designs and trade secrets to sell to competitors, to the hardhearted sociopath who uses the network to get whatever he wants, whenever he wants it and believes there’s no such thing as right or wrong. They’re everywhere now, and you could be dating one.
If you are dating a cyber criminal, you might never know it until RCMP unit or cyber unit agents bang down your door and take every device they find in your home and office. They’ll think you’re part of a criminal conspiracy if they uncover any evidence of collusion in your computer or phone, including in your personal emails and text messages.
There are ways to spot cyber thieves in advance, before you even go out on the first date with one of them.
Indications you could be dating a cyber criminal include these tell tale signs:
- He/She is real web savvy and knows the difference between fixed wireless for business, and common wi-fi or free wireless local area network connection like what’s offered at Starbucks. The former is near impossible to hack without a lot of expensive hardware, whilst the later is a popular hunting ground for identity thieves who sit in airports, coffee shops and hotel lobbies to dupe visitors into using their own homemade free wireless service that searches for financial information in each users transmissions.
- He/She uses a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to unblock Netflix and YouTube, harnessing such services on sites like UnblockUS (SmartDNS), ExpressVPN, and Private Internet Access. These proxies act as a gateway between his system and the Internet which hides their IP address, keeps them anonymous, and provides another (weak) layer of encryption on all his online activities.
- He/She is always buying and selling goods online. They have profiles on several major shopping websites as well as eBay, Amazon and Craigslist and Kijiji accounts to liquidate all the stuff they bought. Why do they buy stuff only to sell it again at lower prices? Because that is how they get paid. Quite often the only way identity thieves can profit from their theft is to run up credit cards by shopping online, and they must then sell these goods to unsuspecting local buyers to get cold hard cash.
- He/She has more than one or two computers and never throws away an old device, ever. All their computers are off limits to everyone. This includes system administrators at his workplace, and all family members at home. They also refuse to take time off from work or let anyone else help with their job (lest they uncover evidence of his criminal activity).
- He/She always tries to guess your passwords or makes conversation about other people’s passwords, often turning the discussion to that topic. And, by asking what password you think a certain person might choose for a certain website they gain insight into how you think, and what words you might choose for your website, email or Facebook login.
- He/She frequents internet cafes. Why does he hang out in internet cafes if he has two or more computers at home, and at work, you may think. There is only reason for it, anonymity. Generally speaking the computer terminals at the internet cafes all share the same router, and even if law enforcement can pinpoint the exact machine that facilitated the crime, it would be difficult to prove it was him at the keyboard at the time of the infraction.
- He/She is overly inquisitive about security features of new devices. While most consumers are interested in the physical attributes of their gadgets, its processing speed, screen size and ringtones, they want to know how secure it is, its encryptions and what additional security software is available to consumers. There are two reasons for their curiosity; they are concerned about keeping their own activities secret, but also they are looking for potential vulnerabilities to exploit in the other device users.
- He/She lives an inexplicably glorious lifestyle far above what would be expected on his ordinary office workers salary, and has no good explanation for the extra income. They drive a luxury car, wear designer clothes, takes expensive trips and buys new gadgets more frequently than anyone else you know. They make large cash transactions sending money and receiving money from overseas, and they have multiple bank accounts, use different banks, and even have bank accounts in the Caribbean and European counties.
Internet-related crime, like any other crime, should be reported to appropriate law enforcement investigative authorities at the local, state, federal, or international levels, depending on the scope of the crime. Citizens who are aware of federal crimes should report them to local offices or federal law enforcement.
The RCMP, “C” Division Integrated Technological Crime Unit (ITCU) includes police investigators and civilian members and is responsible for investigating computer crimes of national or international scope and providing technical assistance to other investigative units. The ITCU investigates offenses such as unauthorized access to a computer or computer network (computer intrusion or hacking), mischief in relation to data (theft, manipulation, deletion, etc.), and possession of equipment or passwords facilitating these type of offenses.
In Toronto, it is estimated there are thousands of white collar criminals living and working downtown, in bank towers, corporate headquarters and of course in coffee shops and hotel lobbies too; they look like normal everyday business executives. They’re not like other criminals who turn to crime out of desperation, and in most cases they don’t frequent seedy bars, do drugs or speak in profanities. They have good educations, nice clothes and date beautiful people who also, on some level, become their victims. Can you think of such a person in your life today? Be careful sharing your devices and watch what you say in emails and texts when you’re corresponding with them electronically; your love letters may be read by police months later as they dig for evidence of criminal conspiracy.