Alberta places second in theft and third in fraud among country's provinces
The rate of identity theft and fraud is on the rise all across the country. But some of the highest rates are in Alberta — a potential side effect of the province's wealth.
According to Statistics Canada, identity fraud has increased by 8.62 per cent. Identity theft, on the other hand, has a rate of 3.79 per cent between the years of 2010 and 2013 in Canada.
By comparison, in 2013 in Alberta, the rate was 28.55 per 100,000 people in fraud and 9.76 in identity theft. Meanwhile, on a national scale, 6.16 per cent of Canadians were victims of identity theft and 26.82 per cent were victims to fraud.
This means that Alberta has the second and third highest rates for identity theft and fraud in the country, but it is still unclear as to why Alberta is a hot spot for this kind of criminal activity.
Daniel Khan, a student at the University of Calgary, is just one of many victims in Alberta who had his identity stolen.
Khan found himself in this very situation after innocently surfing the Internet for a new jacket. When he found a website that looked legitimate, he made the purchase online, but then he noticed unusual charges on his Visa bill.
"I check my credit card, and there's over $400 worth of charges for that company when the jacket itself was $250 and I see little $10 charges from...[different]...websites."
Unlike many other victims of identity theft and fraud, Khan was fortunate because Visa refunded his money.
Chris Williams, a civil litigator based in Calgary represents victims like Khan in court.
"This province attracts a lot of people with a lot of money in the oil and gas sector... It's a wealthy "It's a crime of opportunity...there's not a system that's completely fool proof. There are smart people out there that can always find their way in"
- Ken Chaplin, Senior vice-president with the consumer division of TransUnion Canada
province and it's a good target," Williams explained, when asked why these rates keep rising.
But Srgt. Conal Archer of the RCMP has a somewhat different view.
"I don't think the oil and gas industry has anything specific to do with identity theft or why people would come here to get money in a fraudulent capacity," said Archer, who is a member of Financial Integrity Unit.
Archer explained that the rate is high due to the "volume of people, the amount of banks and the amount of business that is being done here."
For her own part, Wendy Mah, the crime prevention coordinator at Alberta Motor Association, also sees the province's wealthy economy as one of the main factors as to why Alberta has such a high rate of identity theft and fraud.
"Fraudsters will follow the money trail on coming here because there is such an influx of people, and the money that comes with it. "
In addition, Archer, Williams and Mah all seem to agree that there are preventative steps that can be taken to stop identity theft and fraud.
Ken Chaplin, a senior vice-president with the consumer division of TransUnion Canada said it's important to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft.
Specifically, he said to carry the minimum amount of identity cards or papers and also examine personal digital security. He recommended that all computers and data be password protected and locked down.
"Like any other security system, if you look around your neighbourhood, you know the house that has the lights on, and the bars on the window isn't completely locked down and criminal-proof, but it certainly isn't an easy target," Chaplin said.
Nevertheless, Chaplin said, "[fraud is] a crime of opportunity...there's not a system that's completely fool proof. There are smart people out there that can always find their way in."
- By JUSTINA DEARDOFF AND KATHERINE HUITMEA