Phishing Scams: Avoid Being Caught in the Net
March is Fraud Protection Month in Canada. A recent Visa Canada reported 84% of Canadians surveyed said they frequently received phishing scams and 2/3 of those surveyed said they would report them if they knew how. It’s hard to believe, but 156 million phishing emails are sent out globally every day!
This crime is under reported and often undetected. Consumers need to be aware that criminals are out there and trying to trap our personal information for their own benefit.
What is a Phishing Scam?
You’ve probably seen it. You get an email from what looks like a trusted company asking you for information. It looks like a real message from your bank or lending company. It has the logo of the bank and their contact info and it says your account is about to be frozen! In a sense of urgency, you click on the link provided to verify your account and PIN #. Boom! You’ve just been scammed.
Most of us are used to buying/selling online and banking online. We have sensitive info that we try and keep private. The risk of fraud online is low if you are with a trusted institution, but criminals are out there. They understand that randomly guessing passwords can take a very long time. Criminals want to steal your personal information through emails and pop-up messages by trying to trick us into thinking we are clicking on a trusted source. Every year millions of people fall victim to phishing scams.
Think You Are Too Smart to Be Scammed? Think Again.
The emails look very real. They are designed to impersonate your bank/financial institution and fool you into handing over your personal information. They could have security or technical notices. They could say things like “your account is about to be closed,” or “we are trying to stop a virus,” or your mailbox is full or maybe you “won” or inherited money. It may look like a legitimate sender.
The email message itself may not ask you to respond with your personal info but asks you to click a link to verify personal info. If you think it’s legit and act too quickly, you could click the link, enter your personal info to what appears to be the banks website. At this point you’ve handed over your bank info to the criminals who can take all your money, and take loans in your name which can affect your credit history. They can even scam your family and friends by using info from your computer.
How to Detect Phishing Emails
The original email often tries to scare you into thinking your account has illegally been accessed. It insists you click a link to verify info. DO NOT DO THIS. If you put your mouse over the link it may show you that the link will take you to somewhere else. You should be suspicious at this point.
The email may have misspellings or call you “valued customer” since they don’t know your name. The email link will ask for passwords, pin #, account numbers. Check the URL and make sure it is from the right source.
Pause and do your research BEFORE you go further. When in doubt, delete the email or report it to your bank and the following fraud outlets:
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: email@example.com
Visa’s site: firstname.lastname@example.org
Awareness is key. Be suspicious of emails, monitor your bank accounts and do credit checks periodically to make sure your information is safe and accurate.