Online crime surges during COVID-19 pandemic

Police-reported extortion cases in Canada have increased nearly 300% over the past decade, according to new statistics.

“These worrying increases are being fueled by social media platforms and other electronic service providers,” said Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Canadian Center for Child Protection, in a news release.

“It should be a wake-up call.”

Crime data released Tuesday by Statistics Canada also showed an 8% increase in the distribution of non-consensual intimate images from 2020 to 2021. There was also a 4% increase in obscene or harassing communications and a 3% increase in threatening remarks.

According to Statistics Canada, the nature of these crimes has moved online and may have been exacerbated by increased internet activity during the pandemic. In 2021, there will be approximately 15,500 incidents of cybercrime-related harassment and intimidation, up 21% from 2019.

Stephen Sauer, Director of, said the problem has gotten worse since last year. The Winnipeg-based Child Protection Center runs Cyber ​​tip, his Canadian tip line for reporting online child sexual abuse.

According to Sauer, there was a 120% increase in online undercover reports from January to June. The line has seen 300 extortion cases per month, up from his 155 earlier this year.

“What this really says is that there is a serious problem here. Police are seeing an increase and we are seeing an increase,” Sauer said.

The number of people being targeted is also likely high, Sauer said, but many, especially children, do not report out of embarrassment or embarrassment.

“I think there are a lot of children trying to manage these situations on their own without reporting them to adults or us,” he said.

Sauer said that in many cases children are specifically targeted. A criminal gang based abroad pretends to be a young woman on her social media platforms used by her teens, such as Snapchat and Instagram.

They persuade children to send them sexually explicit images and videos and threaten to share the content immediately if children do not provide money and sometimes more images.

The consequences of crime can be fatal. His 17-year-old boy in Manitoba committed suicide just three hours after he was targeted online earlier this year.

Law enforcement agencies across Canada are issuing warnings after a surge in sextortion scams.

Statistics Canada also noted an increase in cases of luring children through computers, up 5% from 2020.

Last month, a 13-year-old girl from Alberta who was missing for over a week was found in Oregon. Her family says she got caught in a psychological game with a man she met online.

A 40-year-old American man has been arrested and charged with rape, sexual abuse and kidnapping.

Mr Sauer said these cases involving online crime are very difficult for police to investigate because most social media companies are not located in Canada and are not necessarily compelled to provide information to the police. said that it can be difficult to

While parents should discuss online safety with their children, Sauer said it’s not the only safety net for children who are increasingly using the internet for school and socializing.

Social media companies can quickly make changes to ensure children are safe on their platforms, Sauer said. The federal government may also introduce regulations, he added.

Ottawa has just formed an Online Safety Advisory Council, which is in the process of negotiating to form a regulatory framework to deal with harmful content online.

McDonald said the new crime data reinforced the need for governments to “quickly impose regulatory guardrails on the tech industry.”

“We do not allow other types of manufacturers to introduce products that pose risks to the public into the Canadian market,” she said.

“But in the digital space, we are free to participate at the expense of our children.”

Kelly Geraldine Malone

canadian press