Email phishing scams have been around for years, but more people are falling victim to them and they show no sign of slowing down.
According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, “the volume and sophistication of phishing scams continues to dramatically increase.” The scams are sent by cyber criminals and are designed to look like trusted businesses, financial institutions and government agencies by tricking users into sending their personal information.
“Some of them originate in Russia or former eastern block countries such as Estonia,” says tech expert and digital media instructor Tristan Jutras. “Some come from the Far East and then there are some homebrewed ones. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. So lots of people are going to get into this to see what they can scam out of regular folks.”
Typically, unsuspecting users are directed to fraudulent websites. Once your personal information is compromised, cyber criminals can access your bank accounts, open up new ones, make purchases and even obtain a passport. Jutras says it’s easy to fall victim because phishing scams look authentic. “They have a good knack of copying the logos and getting them into place,” he adds.
So how can consumers protect themselves?
For starters, don’t click on any links and don’t respond. “If you are not sure, the best thing to do is go and open your web browser and log on to your account and see if there are any messages in there. If they are really trying to get a hold of us, there will be a notification in our account,” says Jutras. Also, take your time. Jutras adds “a lot of time they try and create urgency in the form of security alerts. So, they are putting the fear into you.”
In addition, pay close attention to misspelled words, wrong names and the destination link. Regularly update your computer protection with anti-virus software, spyware filters and firewall programs and pay close attention to your bank and credit card statements. If you do get scammed, tech experts say you may want to report the scam to the Better Business Bureau, RCMP, or the Anti-Phishing Working Group. They keep a list of current scams and will send out periodic alerts.