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Phishing scams: don’t get fooled

It's easier than you think for criminals and scammers to steal your information

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Guest blogger Leanne Salyzyn is an insolvency counsellor, licensed restructuring professional, and licensed insolvency trustee. Post a comment with your personal-finance questions.

According to a recent Visa Canada report, 84 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they frequently received phishing scams. Experts estimate that scammers send 156 million phishing emails 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 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 password. Boom—you’ve just been scammed.

Most of us are used to shopping and banking online. We have sensitive info that we try to keep private. The risk of fraud on line 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’re too smart to be scammed? 

The emails look legit. Criminals design them to impersonate your bank/financial institution and fool you into handing over your personal information. They could look security or technical notices. They could say things like “your account is about to be closed” or “we’re trying to stop a virus,” or “you’ve inherited money.” 

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 click the link, you’re prompted to enter your personal info on what appears to be the bank’s website. You’ve handed over your bank info to the criminals who can take all your money, and even take loans in your name, hurting your credit history. They’ll 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. Never do that. If you put your mouse over the link it may show you that the link will take you to somewhere else. That should make you suspicious.

The email may have misspellings or call you “valued customer” since they don’t know your name.  The email link will ask for passwords and account numbers. It’s highly unlikely your bank would ever really contact you this way. When in doubt, delete the email or report it to your bank, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, or Visa’s fraud-info site

Canadian anti fraud centre : info@antifraudcentre.ca  or visa’s site: phishing@visa.com

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. 

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