The internet is a wonderful thing. It makes finding, sending and receiving information easier than ever before. However, like most things in life, it is not perfect. We can become an easy target for criminals who want to steal our most valuable personal information. Scammers target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels and they succeed because their scams look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it.
This can involve scams called ‘phishing’ and ‘spoofing’. Phishing (FISH-ing) is when an online scammer copies the appearance of a legitimate website in order to trick their victim into entering sensitive information (login credentials – from bank accounts, social networks, work accounts, etc). Spoofing is when a fraudulent email sender hopes to have you respond to an email that is made to look as if it's from a legitimate company. They might use techniques convincing you to click on a specific, malicious link and access a website that looks legit, but is actually controlled by them. You could be redirect to a fake login page that resembles the real website. They'll create a sense of urgency, tell you a frightening story of how your account is under threat and how you need to access a site as soon as possible where you must insert your credentials to confirm your identity or your account. This is only one example of many that are currently circulating the internet. CRA scams are especially prevalent these days.
Here are some ways to avoid online traps:
Be alert to the fact that scams exist
When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Check the Web Address (or URL)
Messages from social websites, online payment processors, or IT administrators are commonly used to lure in the unsuspecting public. Watch your accounts closely and monitor your online transactions. The web address for the phishing site may closely resemble the legitimate website. It may even contain the address of the authentic website, but also includes code to reroute the traffic to a false website.
Stay alert and skeptical
Watch for people unexpectedly contacting you by email or phone and asking about personal information. Companies offering services don't ask for passwords, and they don't reset password without you initiating it first. Only open emails, links, and attachments from trustworthy sources.
Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails – delete them
If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
Know who your providers are
Be aware of who you use for your hosting, email, and internet. Also know how these providers will be contacting you.
Protect your computer
Use spam filters, anti-virus software, and firewalls. For optimal protection, make sure to keep these programs up to date.
Keep your computers and mobile devices secure
Always use password protection, don’t share access with others, update security software and back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
Choose your passwords carefully
Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
Review your privacy and security settings on social media
If you use social networking sites, such as Facebook, be careful who you connect with and learn how to use your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay safe. If you recognize suspicious behaviour or clicked on spam, take steps to secure your account and be sure to report it.
Be careful when shopping online
Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust. Think twice before using virtual currencies (like Bitcoin) - they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods, which means you can’t get your money back once you send it. Consider using a pre-paid or reloadable credit card for online purchases.
If you think you have been a victim of an online scam or if you have provided account numbers, PINS, or passwords to an unidentified source, notify the companies that you have accounts with right away.
Criminals from all around the world can now reach into our homes and businesses quite easily. Different from malware and viruses found in software application, phishing scams continue to evolve and be a significant online threat. Combinations of spoofing and phishing may look credible and can easily make you a victim. It is essential to stay safe and learn how to detect and prevent these attacks.
We've been noticing an increase in fraudulent activity recently, if you have concerns, please feel free to reach out to us.
What topics would you like to hear about? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org