Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said that in the past six months, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a notable increase in the number of fraud and cyber crimes being investigating by the Financial Crimes Investigation Unit, adding that there was a 36 percent increase in hacking and extortion.
During a recent address at a virtual security conference held by CARICOM IMPACS, Rolle said there were 118 reports of cyber crime between January 1 and June 30.
Speaking with Guardian Business yesterday, Rolle said in recent times the force has seen more perpetrators using technology to commit crimes.
“In the last six months, we have seen some increase in fraud-related matters, particularly cyber fraud,” he said.
“That’s why in the police force we have established what we call the cyber crime unit that is also integrated into financial crime because it is actually the same financial crimes being used in a cyber world.
“So, we have in recent times seen a slight increase in persons using computers to facilitate their criminal activities.”
The Financial Crimes Investigation Unit was established two years ago to investigate specifically fraud and the act of deception being used in order for persons to obtain funds or other items from other persons illegitimately.
“These are things we refer to as scams, swindles or trick persons into giving up personal information. Oftentimes what you see is that scams overlap with the cyber world, which refers to anything related to computers, internet and information technology,” Rolle said.
“Essentially we find persons using criminal deception by way now of information technology to carry out crimes on unsuspecting persons.
“That then sets the basis for our response in investigating these matters because, particularly now having this pandemic upon us, we’re moving more and more to cashless environments, and so people have to depend a lot more on their computers. So, you’re finding a lot more phishing going, that is trying to get persons to give up their personal information so that they can get access to their accounts.”
In recent weeks, a number of people were arrested and charged with fraud-related crimes.
Rolle said while police and financial institutions have been keen on warning the public to beware of fraudulent activity, there is little the police can do to target persons with nefarious intentions.
“We start off of course by providing information to members of the public,” he said.
“You’ll see the bank sending out notices saying what not to do and not to give out personal information, especially over social media, if you do not know who it is you are talking to.
“From a law enforcement aspect of it, we do not go out and target persons in terms of getting them to do anything with us. The way the investigation goes is, it starts off with an individual coming in and making the complaint and that’s where it starts.
“The investigation is oftentimes very complex because if we have no idea of who the person is who has perpetrated it. It usually starts with the individual’s computer, a cell phone that they use, and we go backward to try to trace the place where it started from. We are sometimes having to use complex cyber tools in order to achieve those investigations.”
During that recent virtual CARICOM meeting, Rolle committed to strengthening the capacity of the Financial Crimes Investigation Unit by providing standardized financial investigation training and also pledged to increase the complement of investigators within the unit, inclusive of forensic accountants and analysts.