With Black Friday and Cyber Monday taking place later this month, Alberta RCMP K Division is reminding Albertans to be mindful when shopping online this year, in an effort to reduce credit card fraud.
Each month, Alberta RCMP promotes a crime-prevention tip on its social media channels. According to Jennifer Kee, a community engagement and outreach specialist for RCMP K Division, November’s focus is cybersecurity. With the holiday shopping season around the corner, she said it's an ideal time to remind people to be vigilant when purchasing gifts online.
“Probably even more so due to the pandemic, there’s going to be a lot more people shopping online,” she said. “We’re just trying to reach as many people as we can.”
According to Kee, RCMP’s primary tips to prevent online credit card fraud are to have strong passwords and not use public wifi networks to shop online. Another tip is to shop online from your own home, rather than in a public place.
“The reason for that is two-fold,” she said. “First off, public wifi is not as secure. Second, if you happen to leave your laptop open at the establishment you’re at – you go to pick up your coffee that’s ready – there could be people there who are looking for that and would be able to see what you put into your laptop by taking a quick glance at it.”
Another security-related suggestion, according to Kee, is to use websites that have HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) in the webpage address, rather than HTTP. The reason for this, she said, is because websites that use HTTPS are encrypted, making them harder to hack.
After shopping online, Kee said it is important to watch your financial statements to ensure there haven’t been any unauthorized purchases. Should you spot one, she said RCMP urges you to call your financial institution first, rather than the police.
“If you report to the police first, we don’t have access to freeze that account, put a hold on it or do the investigation from the financial institution’s side,” she said. “We work in tandem with them, but we cannot investigate the way they would be doing it. Notify the financial institution first and then call your local policing agency.”
RCMP’s final cybersecurity tip, Kee said, is to remember the age-old adage that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
While RCMP does not yet have finalized data on fraud instances for 2020, Kee said there were more than 1,200 reports of fraud greater than $5,000 in Alberta RCMP’s jurisdiction in 2019. There were also more than 6,000 reports of fraud less than or equal to $5,000 last year and 70 reports of unauthorized credit card use.
Kee said those statistics refer to all types of fraud, not just credit card fraud.
“At this time, we’re not able to make a comparison because the online shopping season is just starting to pick up now,” she said. “Also reflective of that is how many cases we still have open that are being investigated, and how many cases that have been closed because it was a family member that perpetrated it or a close friend.
“There are a whole bunch of different factors that come into these stats, and it’s not only for online shopping, but these stats are very valuable for the public to know – to see this is a real criminal offence and one they need to be aware of.”
For more information on cybersecurity and online shopping safety, Kee said to follow Alberta RCMP’s Twitter handle – @RCMPAlberta – or its Facebook page, @RCMPinAlberta