Students warned about potential online crimes

On stage at Danforth Collegiate, a jilted ex posted sexy photos of his former girlfriend online.

Students Jason Stewart and Trisha Sobti perform a scene about the risks of private photos leaking online during a March 12 assembly at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute called Don’t Be Fooled. Co-presented by the Toronto Police Service and Ontario’s anti-fraud agency, the event gave students tips on how to keep their money and identities safe while online. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Students Jason Stewart and Trisha Sobti perform a scene about the risks of private photos leaking online during a March 12 assembly at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute called Don’t Be Fooled. Co-presented by the Toronto Police Service and Ontario’s anti-fraud agency, the event gave students tips on how to keep their money and identities safe while online.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

She felt humiliated as they spread from phone to phone at school. She was hurt when her new guy saw the pictures and called it off.  She got angry when some mean girls used the photos to kick her off student council.

“I’m the victim here,” she said as it all piled up. “That’s totally not fair!”

Although it was theatre, that scene and two more performed by Grade 9 students for a March 12 assembly put real risks on stage.

One showed a fake online friend who listened for credit card details during Skype chats. Another showed the victim of a creepy “pop-up” ad that installed hidden spy-cam  software when she clicked it.

Called “Don’t Be Fooled,” the March 12 event was jointly presented by Toronto police and Ontario’s anti-fraud agency – people who see the real effects of money scams, cyberstalking, and damaging photos that leak online.

“You guys are way up the curve,” said Frank Denton, assistant deputy minister in Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services.

As he said it, dozens of smart phones glowed in the auditorium. Several students were live-tweeting the event using the #DontBFooled hashtag. They cheered when it made the Toronto Twitter trends map.

“But there are people all around the world who are moving just as fast to figure out ways to trick you,” Denton added.

While geared for teens, many of the tips shared at Don’t Be Fooled work for anyone who posts on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media.

Police showed one video, made by a safe-banking group in Belgium, in which random people get invited to meet a fortune teller.

Dressed in flowing white clothes, he puts on a good show. As he rattles off the strangers’ personal details — an Antwerp high school, an orange motorcycle, a best friend named Julie — they gasp in surprise.

But their faces fall when the details move to money: the listing price of their house, the €300 they spent on booze last month, their bank account number.

At the close, a group of hackers were shown mining people’s social media accounts for data.

“Your entire life is online,” flashed the ad. “It can be used against you.”

In Canada, some 5,300 people reported identity theft to police last year. There are 28 million people who regularly use the internet, and the fraudsters who stole a reported $58 million in 2013 are doing the same.

Besides tips on how to secure their money or personal details, speakers at the Danforth assembly talked about what to do when things go wrong.

Bonnie Levine, director of the not-for-profit Victim Services Toronto, said victims of online fraud, ID theft and sexual harassment often feel embarrassed or humiliated. Sometimes those feelings turn to severe depression and, in rare cases, suicide.

“We can’t get your money back. We can’t get your Facebook account back, or your images back,” Levine said.

“But we can help you with the emotional aftermath.”

While many people come to Victim Services through police referrals, Levine said anyone can phone the 416-808-7066 hotline or get in touch using victimservicestoronto.com.

“We’re here for you,” she said.


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