New statistics show that police-reported extortion cases in Canada have risen nearly 300 percent over the past decade as crime has surged online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These worrying increases are being facilitated by social media platforms and other e-service providers,” said Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Canada Center for Child Protection, in a press release.
“It should be a wake-up call.”
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Crime data released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday also showed an eight percent increase in non-consensual sharing of intimate images from 2020 to 2021. There was also an increase in indecent or harassing communications – up four percent – and making threats – up three percent cents.
The nature of these crimes has shifted online, according to Statistics Canada, and may have been exacerbated by increased internet activity during the pandemic. In 2021, there were nearly 15,500 cybercrime-related violations of harassing and threatening behavior — up 21 percent from 2019.
Stephen Sauer, the director of Cybertip.ca, said the problem has gotten worse over the past year. The Winnipeg-based child protection center operates Cybertip, Canada’s tip hotline for reporting child sexual abuse online.
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Between January and June, there was a 120 percent increase in reports of online baiting, Sauer said. The line now sees 300 extortion cases per month, up from 155 earlier this year.
“What that really means is that there is a significant problem here. The police are seeing an increase, we are seeing an increase,” Sauer said.
The number of people targeted is also likely higher, Sauer said, but many don’t report it out of embarrassment or shame, especially when it comes to children.
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“I think there are a lot of kids out there trying to handle these situations on their own, without an adult or without checking in with us,” he said.
Sauer said that children are often targeted. Organized crime rings based abroad are posing as young women on social media platforms used by teenagers such as Snapchat and Instagram.
They persuade them to send sexually explicit pictures or videos and then immediately threaten to share the content if the children don’t provide them with money or sometimes more pictures.
The consequences of the crime can be deadly. A 17-year-old Manitoba boy killed himself earlier this year just three hours after being attacked online.
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Statistics Canada also found an increase in incidents of a child being lured by a computer – a five percent increase compared to 2020.
Last month, a 13-year-old Alberta girl went missing for more than a week before being found in Oregon, and her family says she got caught up in the psychological games of a man she met online.
A 40-year-old American has been arrested and charged with rape, sexual abuse and kidnapping.
Sauer said it can be extremely difficult for police to investigate these online crime cases because most social media companies are not based in Canada and are not necessarily compelled to provide information to officers.
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While parents should talk to children about online safety, Sauer said it can’t be the only protection for children, who are increasingly using the internet for school and socializing.
Social media companies could make immediate changes to ensure kids are safe on their platforms, Sauer said. The federal government can also introduce regulations, he added.
Ottawa has just established an Online Safety Advisory Council and is in the process of holding consultations to create a regulatory framework to combat harmful online content.
McDonald said the new crime data reinforces the need for the government to “quickly impose regulatory guardrails on the tech industry.”
“We do not allow other types of manufacturers to introduce products into the Canadian market that pose a risk to the public,” she said.
“Nevertheless, in the digital space, it’s a free-for-all at the expense of the kids.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/9033519/online-crime-2021-statistics-canada/ Sextortion cases surge in Canada as online crime surges amid COVID pandemic: report – National