An Edmonton minor hockey association has avoided becoming the latest victim of a nasty email scam that cost a Calgary association nearly $100,000.
The scammers wound up on the losing end thanks to the quick thinking of Randa Kachkar, treasurer of the Knights Southside Hockey Association.
Kachkar received an email on Feb. 23 from a sender posing as the president of the Knights.
“First thing I thought of was to check the ‘reply to’ address to see who it came from,” she said.
The name of the sender checked out. The email address did not.
In the message, the sender asked Kachkar to “kindly confirm to me the available account balances, as I would like you to initiate a bank transfer for a payment.”
She grew highly suspicious and engaged the sender in a conversation.
“The thing that got me was they actually named names. So that’s when you start thinking, ‘Is that true or is it not?'”
Eventually, the sender wrote back and insisted they needed help setting up the transfer for payment in the amount of $5,100. Kachkar’s next move was a game changer.
She asked them, “What is your pet name for me?” Their response – Panda – was wrong.
After hearing about the scam that netted thieves nearly $100,000 from Calgary’s McKnight Hockey Association, Kachkar is grateful they did not wind up in a similar predicament.
“That’s probably their year’s registration fees and their fundraising. And you know how hard the parents and the club has to work to raise that kind of money? And then they still have to pay for their ice.”
Ice time does not come cheap. It rings in at nearly $200 an hour for them, she said.
“What I recommend to people out there is – what’s your standard operating practices? And don’t stray outside of those,” Kachkar said.
Cyber security expert David Papp believes public awareness and education are crucial to navigating the Internet. He says the kind of scam Kachkar found herself having to fend off has become significantly more common since the start of the year.
“Be more skeptical. You have to not necessarily click on things or open attachments if you’re unsure,” Papp offered.
“If something is instilling a sense of urgency, that should be a warning.”
This type of approach, he says, is different from phishing.
“They’re spending a lot of time to pick their targets now. This is very different from just blasting out email spam and hoping somebody’s going to click on the link or open the attachment.”
On Feb. 16, Hockey Alberta issued a memo to minor hockey associations, junior and senior club teams and pond hockey programs.
They warned them that “in recent weeks there have been a rash of email scams targeting not-for-profit organizations.”
Among the red flags they urge people to be on the lookout for are requests to transfer funds into another account, a sense of urgency to have a payment made and the appearance that the request is coming from the president or vice president of the organization.
The memo encourages members to ensure they exercise due diligence when any financial requests are received using email.
That includes checking the actual email address from which the request is coming from and simply trusting your gut.