Cybercrime leading to financial loss more than quadrupled in Manitoba last year compared to 2020.
Manitobans lost a collective $7,053,615 to online scams in 2021, up from the $1,747,521 of 2020 and the $1,117,340 of 2019. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre shared its data with the Free Press.
“Trust nobody,” said Mathieu Manaigre, president of Avenir IT.
His company assists businesses with cyber security.
“Phishing emails have gone way, way, way up in the last couple years,” he said. “They’re getting a lot more personal.”
Criminals pretend to be CEOs or managers. They send malicious attachments disguised as voicemails and resumes.
“With the whole war going on with Russia and Ukraine, we (have seen) an increase of malicious emails asking to donate to certain funds,” Manaigre said. “COVID, we got (a) huge increase of targeted attacks.”
Spear phishing — scam emails targeting a specific individual or organization — was in Manitoba’s top three biggest cybercrime financial drains in 2020 and 2019. However, it fell to fourth place last year.
Romance was Manitobans’ leading cause of losing money to online crime in 2021. Forty-nine victims lost a collective $2,237,153, according to Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre data.
Investment came second at $1.83 million and 51 victims, and vendor fraud was third with nearly $1.52 million in losses and 62 victims.
Spear phishing pulled $726,775 from 26 Manitoban victims.
“As much as technology companies are doing what they can to prevent (spam emails) from coming in, the cyber criminals are doing the same thing to try to trick all these filters and these other systems from blocking their content,” Manaigre said.
Investing in cyber security is essential, he said.
“The cost of being a victim to some kind of cybercrime… for some businesses… that’s it. They might not be able to recover,” Manaigre said.
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce receives scam emails daily, according to Loren Remillard, the non-profit’s president and CEO.
“It ranges from, ‘Can you call me? I need you to purchase gift cards’ — that seems to be a daily occurrence — to ‘Here’s an invoice. Please issue payment promptly,’” Remillard said.
He said he’s increasingly heard of ransomware attacks on businesses. Criminals attack a company’s system, hold its information and will only release their grip when the business pays a ransom for their information and databases, Remillard said.
“It’s crippling for companies,” he said, adding such events aren’t often shared.
“You don’t see companies talking about human resource issues in the public realm,” Remillard said. “IT security falls within that same privacy area.”
Manitoba made the most complaints per capita to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre over the past five years, according to an analysis by Social Catfish, an online reverse name search platform.
The prairie province filed about 344 reports per 100,000 residents, it said.
“We do not have a clear explanation as to why Manitoba had the most complaints per capita of any province or territory in Canada, but it is something we are continuing to research,” David McClellan, Social Catfish’s president, wrote in an email.
He noted places with higher populations inherently tend to have more complaints and money lost.
McClellan called the rise in online scams “alarming”.
“It has been an issue for many years but since COVID-19 our traffic from Canada has skyrocketed with Canadians trying to confirm if the person they are speaking to online is real or not,” he wrote.
The average Manitoban victim lost $2,815, according to Social Catfish’s analysis, which covered 2017 through 2021.
Canadians age 60 through 69 were the most scammed age group, while those age 40 through 49 were second, Social Catfish found.
“This is a global phenomenon that companies are increasingly having to deal with,” Remillard said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s one of the side effects of an increasingly digital world.”
Training employees on cyber security is essential, said Manaigre of Avenir IT. Investing in cyber secure systems is important for businesses, as is getting a review of such systems every six months, he said.
On the individual side, it’s smart to check in with people before clicking the links they send, Manaigre said.
“Call them, confirm that they are the ones that are sending this information before you actually go in there and open that up,” he said.
State-sponsored attacks could target small businesses — everyone is vulnerable, Remillard said.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.
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