Phishing scams

Guest blogger Leanne Salyzyn is an insolvency counselor, licensed restructuring professional and trustee in bankruptcy. Post a comment or contact her on Twitter with your personal-finance questions.
March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada. According to a recent Visa Canada survey, 84 per cent of Canadians say they frequently receive phishing scams. 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 our bank of 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 number. Boom! You’ve just been scammed.
Most of us are used to buying and selling online and banking online. We have sensitive information 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 email and text 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 look like security or technical notices. They could say things like, “Account is about to be closed,” or that they are trying to stop a virus, 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 information but asks you to click a link to verify. If you think it’s legit and act too quickly, you could click the link, enter your personal information to what appears to be the bank’s website. At this point you’ve handed over your details to the criminals who can take all your money or takes loans in your name, which can affect your credit history. They can even scam your family and friends by using information 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 information. Do not do this. If you put your mouse over the link, it will 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 a “valued customer” since they don’t know your name. The email link will ask for passwords, PIN numbers or account numbers. Check the URL and make sure it is from the right source.
When in doubt, delete the email or report it to your bank and the following fraud outlets:
Canadian Anti-Fraud
Visa Canada
Awareness is key. Be suspicious of emails, monitor bank accounts and do credit checks regularly.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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