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Elgin County officials warn of phishing emails

FILE. AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File

Officials with Elgin County are warning members of the public to be on alert for phishing emails that claim to be coming from the county or from a local municipality.

The warning comes as the county has been dealing with a nearly month-long cybersecurity incident which has left the county’s website and email system offline.

In a joint statement Friday, officials from Elgin County and from the Municipality of Central Elgin said phishing email campaigns had increased in prevalence across Ontario in recent weeks, and that they had recently learned of bogus emails circulating which claimed to be from the county and municipality.

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Phishing emails are scam messages which appear to come from a known institution or company, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The emails may state that you need to update your account, or that a tax refund is ready — tricks aimed at getting you to provide personal information.

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“Whatever the message is, the email is an attempt to trick you into providing your personal or financial information,” reads the CAFC website. Oftentimes, phishing emails and messages can include a malicious link that may infect a user’s computer.

In a joint statement, the county and municipality ask residents to be cautious when opening emails and attachments from any source, adding that people should refrain from clicking suspicious links, opening unexpected attachments.

Residents should also check to make sure that the email address of the sender matches the sender’s name, and that if an email seems suspicious, to simply delete it.

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It was nearly a month ago when Elgin County’s chief administrative officer, Julie Gonyou, wrote in a memo that the county was tending to an unspecified “cyber security incident,” which saw a large amount of spam containing malicious attachments or links sent to staff members, according to a London Free Press report.

Few details have been made public by the county. An external consultant has been hired by the county to look into what happened, and monitoring for possible data breaches is ongoing, according to the Free Press.

The cybersecurity incident has left the county’s website and email services down for several weeks. Elgin County’s website remained offline on Monday.

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Global News reached out to officials with the county and with the Municipality of Central Elgin, but comment was not immediately available.

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