Thursday, 19 March 2020

Phishing in a Time of Crisis


This is an unprecidented time of crisis for Canada and the world. It is a time, we should be supporting each other, helping each other and focus on health and well-being. And while we are all hearing and reading about random acts of kindness in our communities - people helping others, grocery stores opening early for seniors, neighbours offering to shop for those in isolation - there are always those who will use a time of heightened fear and anxiety, to their own benefit. And this is what I don't understand. I don't understand it at the best of times; I really don't understand it, at a time like this. There are people out there, trying to take advantage of others to either profit financially or simply to create bedlam in someone's life, without regard for the human being they are harming.

In the last 3 days I have had 3 automated phone calls, from 3 different phone numbers attempting to steal my social insurance number. I've also received a message on LinkedIN from one of my contacts, that I am certain is a virus of some sort (I'm certain her account has been hacked as I know she would not send the sort of message I got). I am aware enough to delete all of these attempts, and I have had enough calls from fake CRA agents and fake credit card companies to be more than suspicous of all unknown phone calls, emails and text messages. 

But what about our seniors who may not be tech savvy; who may be isolated and alone; who may be worried about money and health and their families? I have heard repeatedly about how people have been bilked of their savings in the past few years because of scams and phishing schemes. There are many trusting people who will follow what an unknown caller or an email tells them to do, and they will send money out of fear or worry. 

And now there are COVID-19 scams surfacing too. As if we don't have enough to worry about! Known as Phishing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing), scams that are being identified include fake notices from health organizations, phony websites or emails containing viruses that will attack computers, fake chartible appeals, and ads or spam about purchasing protective gear - all meant to exploit people and their fears. 

Ways to protect yourself from cybercriminals include: don't give personal information to unknown sources; always check an email address to see if it comes from a legitimate source; watch for spelling and grammar mistakes in emails; don't click on a weblink you don't know or any attachment from someone you don't know; don't respond to robo calls or texts; never give finanicial information to an unknown source; when in doubt - ask someone or google a phone number or website to see if other people have posted about it; if you want to donate money, ensure it's a legitimate agency; and be vigilant and aware. For information on the COVID-19, only trust legitmate government websites. If you have a senior in your life, ensure they know about scams that are surfacing and ask them to notify you if they receive a suspcious call, text or email so you can assist in investigating its legitimacy. 

These are trying times for all of us - stay aware, help your neighbour, and protect yourself and your family.