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3,124 cybercrimes reported to Vancouver police in 2023 | #cybercrime | #infosec


The number of cybercrimes reported to the Vancouver Police Department in 2023 reached 3,124, with financial losses totalling close to $70 million.

The data was released April 25 by Sgt. Skigh Murray of the VPD’s cybercrime unit in a presentation to the Vancouver Police Board.

“The numbers are quite staggering,” said Murray, referring to the money lost by victims.

Those losses have largely increased over the past years, with the data showing victims lost $15.2 million in 2019, $22 million in 2020, $48.6 million in 2021. Those losses dropped to $27.6 million in 2022, before rebounding last year.

Cryptocurrency files represent the majority of VPD investigations, with one case in 2023 where a victim lost $10 million after unknowingly sending their money to a fake website and investing in the currency.

Bitcoin

Murray said many people interested in cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin know very little about it, increasing their chances of becoming a victim of a scam.

“The ability for Bitcoin, in particular, to fluctuate in price is attractive to some people,” he said.

“You may have seen ads on Instagram and Facebook trying to teach you how to invest. Clicking on those ads sometimes take you to threat actors who are trying to get you to invest in fake websites.”

And that, he added, is where the “pig butchering scam” begins. The scam was named after the practice of farmers fattening hogs before slaughter.

Murray said “compounds” are set up in Southeast Asia where thousands of people are performing various scams against their will.

“They’re brought there under the ruse of customer service jobs from all over the world, their passports are taken away, and if they don’t comply, they’re beaten,” he said. “It is a major epidemic right now.”

Murray said technology is being used in a variety of online crimes, including “sextortion” and various scams related to romance, investment, identity theft and Facebook Marketplace.

A Vancouver Police Department chart shows the increase in reported cybercrime incidents.

‘Selling stolen phones’

He shared details on three cases, including one that led police to the Downtown Eastside.

A person had his cellphone stolen from his car. That same person had cryptocurrency on his phone. The thief took the victim’s sim card and transferred its information to a new phone to get control of the currency.

“Through our investigative techniques, we were able to actually identify and track someone down through the cryptocurrency tracing software,” Murray said.

“We did some investigative techniques and determined that he was operating out of the marketplace in the Downtown Eastside. He was selling stolen phones. We did some more investigative techniques, arrested him, interviewed him and were able to actually return the cryptocurrency to the original owner.”

Murray said such a case is rare.

“I’d like to say this happens a lot,” he said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t, where we have a suspect and a victim that is within our region. A lot of the time it is overseas.”

‘Fraud from overseas’

Another case initially began as a kidnapping investigation.

A family member posted on a social media site that they were looking for a missing loved one. A “threat actor” from overseas saw the post, contacted the poster and said they had kidnapped the missing person and wanted a ransom.

“Luckily, we were able to determine that this was actually a fraud from overseas within a few hours,” Murray said. “Usually, these things are protracted over a long period of time and cost a lot of money.”

In another case, a person provided money to another person via Facebook Marketplace to buy an item. The person never got the item. Police investigated and executed a search warrant in Surrey, where they arrested a violent organized crime member from Quebec, who had outstanding warrants.

“We were able to also seize a loaded firearm, a large quantity of drugs and identity theft documents,” Murray said. “So just an example of how we didn’t know what we were getting into. We thought it was a fraud, but we got a lot more out of it than we anticipated.”

London Drugs

Murray gave his presentation to the police board prior to London Drugs reporting that it had been a victim of a cyberattack, forcing the retail chain to close its stores for several days. The VPD said Tuesday that it wasn’t involved in the investigation.

London Drugs has posted a series of updates via the X social media platform, saying it was working with “leading third-party cybersecurity experts to bring operations back online in a safe and secure manner.”

The company hasn’t released details on how the attack happened, or who was behind it.

“The impact of the incident on operations has been significant, and the restoration process is rigorous,” the company said. “There are billions of lines of data and code to review.”

London Drugs said Monday it expected all 79 of its stores to be open by end of day, May 7.

“As our investigation continues, we have not seen any evidence that any customer databases were compromised, including our pharmacy patients and LDExtras members databases,” the company said.

“In the event our ongoing investigation later determines that personal information was impacted, we will notify affected individuals in accordance with privacy laws.”

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