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Protect Yourself Against Cyber Crime in Canada

By RBC Insurance • Published January 30, 2024 • 8 Min Read

Much of our daily lives are spent online. We bank online, shop online, and watch films and TV online. Many of the activities Canadians do over the internet involve financial transactions, putting us at risk to become targets for cyber criminals looking to defraud us. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) cites there were 92,078 reports of fraud in Canada in 2022, amounting to a total theft of more than $530 million!

Cyber crime is on the rise. Knowing the ways online criminals operate as well as methods for protecting yourself can help lower crime rates and keep sensitive data out of the hands of criminals.

Key takeaways

  • Cyber crime is on the rise in Canada, necessitating increased vigilance and awareness.

  • Anyone who uses a computer or a digital device connected to the internet can be a target of cyber criminals.

  • Ransomware attacks are the most common type of cyber crime in Canada.

  • Cyber insurance can help protect you and your family from the financial impacts of cyber crime.

What is cyber crime?

Cyber crime is illegal activity that takes place online through the use of computers and/or by targeting other computers, networks, or networked devices (and their users). Numerous types of cyber crimes exist, ranging from financial fraud to the theft of intellectual property to identity theft.

With hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from Canadians every year, it’s obvious this  criminal activity is having a major impact in our country—and the damage isn’t solely financial. Identity theft, for example, can take years of effort to resolve, creating an emotional and a financial strain on those who are targeted.

What are common cyber crimes in Canada?

Phishing and social engineering

Phishing and social engineering are strategies that cyber criminals use across large groups of potential targets in the hope that some of these targets will be duped.

Criminals who use social engineering tactics manipulate targets into giving up their personal information (such as a PIN or account numbers). Phishing is a form of social engineering in which a criminal imitates a company, brand, or recognizable organization to steal sensitive information from you. For example, you might receive an email in which the sender claims to be your bank or a department store where you frequently shop. The sender may ask for your credit card number, so they can confirm a purchase or they may offer you an enticing prize. Often, they will then use the information you disclose to them for further criminal activities.

Phishing emails usually exhibit telltale signs of fraud. Look out for messages that express urgency and contain statements such as, “You must respond within 24 hours, or we will close your account.” They also often contain requests for your personal information, such as login data, passwords, or PINs. Remember that financial institutions will never ask for this type of information over text or email. Similarly, the Canada Revenue Agency never asks you to provide personal information by email.

Phishing emails frequently offer too-good-to-be-true prizes or deals that ask you to provide sensitive information or pay a fee upfront. They can also contain suspicious links that lead to pages asking for login data.

If you receive an email from an unknown sender that appears unprofessional, or haphazardly constructed, or includes a file to download, it’s likely a phishing scam. Spam filters can help  reduce the amount of phishing emails you receive, but some will still get through. Learn to recognize these warning signs. If you’re unsure about an email, use alternative methods (for example, phoning your bank or credit card company directly) to verify any and/or all online-based requests you receive.

Identity theft and financial fraud

Identity thieves target your personal, sensitive information to use it for fraudulent activities. This can include your name, birth date, address, and social insurance number. Cyber criminals can use this data to apply for a loan or open a credit card account, leaving targets liable for debts they did not incur themselves.

Protect yourself from identity theft by:

  • Never sharing your personal data, unless you’re certain you’re communicating with a legitimate company or organization.

  • Creating strong and unique passwords for online platforms that could be targeted by cyber criminals—think: your email account, your online banking account, and any other site that stores your personal information.

  • Using two-factor login authentication on sites that offer this option.

  • Checking your banking and credit card statements to monitor for unauthorized transactions.

  • Employing a credit monitoring service that will notify you when it detects suspicious activity on your account.

Ransomware attacks

According to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, ransomware attacks are the most common threat to online security. This type of attack—where criminals use software to steal, corrupt, or erase data—is on the rise. Once your data is stolen or otherwise compromised, attackers demand a fee (or ransom) from you to get it restored.

Corporations or large organizations are often the targets of ransomware attacks, but individuals can also be targets. Since data is stolen via online channels, storing yours offline or in a secure cloud storage system provides a greater degree of data protection. But it does require you to regularly back up your data, so it remains current. You’ll also want to keep your computer and phone operating systems and other programs up to date, so their latest security features are put to use.

To avoid ransomware attacks, never download a suspicious-looking file (even if it’s sent from a friend) or a file from a source you don’t know.

Online privacy breaches

The internet creates a web of connections in our communities and across the globe. It also creates opportunities for cyber criminals to take advantage of social media users and their right to privacy.

Privacy is an individual issue, and some people are willing to share more about themselves than others. To maintain the level of privacy you’re comfortable with, examine the personal risks you’re taking by sharing too much about your life on social media platforms and marketplaces. Are you OK with strangers having your address, birthday, or phone number? What about your last name?

Most mainstream social media platforms offer privacy setting options that let you control who sees what you share and how much they see. Make sure your privacy settings are aligned with your willingness to share your information with strangers. When installing a new app or signing up for a new platform, carefully read the notifications explaining the personal information these apps will be able to access and the data they’ll be able to collect.

For those who want to go the extra mile in protecting their privacy online, a virtual private network (VPN) service will provide a secure connection between your computer and the internet by altering your IP address and encrypting your internet activities.

Cyberbullying and online harassment

Online harassment and cyberbullying can especially affect younger users of social media platforms and apps. Cyberbullying can take a serious toll on mental health, result in a loss of self-esteem, or even be linked to threats of real-world physical harm.

Create open lines of communication within your family or circle of friends, so those experiencing online harassment have someone to turn to if it happens to them.

Cyberbullies should be reported via the platform they’re using to carry out their harassment. They can also be blocked by targets who are experiencing bullying. The Canadian government has instituted legal consequences for those who engage in online harassment. The punishment for cyberbullying ranges from fines to the confiscation of computers or mobile devices to jail time, depending on the severity and type of harassment.

What is cyber insurance?

Cyber insurance is a type of coverage designed to help protect people from ransomware attacks, data breaches, identity theft, and other cyber crimes previously mentioned. If you’re insured through RBC Insurance, our cyber endorsement coverage can be added to your homeowner’s insurance policy. This product helps to reduce the financial impacts of cyber crime by covering legal costs, the costs of an investigation, or the costs to restore stolen or corrupted data. 

Your cyber insurance company should explain what kind of cyber crime is covered under its policy, who in your household is protected, and whether or not the company uses cyber crime experts when claims are made.

Taking charge of your digital security

Be sure to follow these key steps to keep yourself and your data protected from cyber criminals:

  • Use passwords and login information that are hard to guess and never share this information.

  • Opt in for two-step login authentication, where possible.

  • Monitor your financial transactions carefully and frequently for suspicious activity.

  • Use spam filters and delete emails that have the features often found in phishing scams.

  • Never download email attachments, unless you are certain about their source and content.

  • Think about increasing your privacy settings on social media platforms.

  • Store your data offline or on a secure cloud server.

  • Report cyber crimes or attempted cyber crimes via phone or email. Find contact information here.

Cyber insurance can help protect you and your family from the losses and costs that result from cyber crime. A licensed insurance advisor can help you get a home insurance quote and find the right coverage for your situation.

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*Home and auto insurance products are distributed by RBC Insurance Agency Ltd. and underwritten by Aviva General Insurance Company. In Quebec, RBC Insurance Agency Ltd. Is registered as a damage insurance agency. As a result of government-run auto insurance plans, auto insurance is not available through RBC Insurance in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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