Editor’s note: March Is Fraud Awareness Month. The Vernon Community Policing Office is doing a series of articles this month alerting residents to the numerous scams going around on a daily basis. Today’s topic: Internet fraud; phishing and malicious software
For The Morning Star
The Internet has made it possible to communicate with friends and family scattered across the world without worrying about poor line connections or the huge cost of an overseas phone call.
Having a computer, tablet, or smart phone connected to the Internet through a dedicated line or Wi-Fi lets us shop, do our banking and pay bills without leaving the house or in the comfort of an easy chair in a coffee shop. Being connected and accessible has never been so simple.
Sadly, because we are so accessible, Internet scammers know how easy it is to get to us.
Scammers use the Internet to trick unsuspecting users into providing information such as e-mail and home address, phone number, age, full name and in some cases banking information and social Insurance numbers.
They do it so they can steal your money and/or your identity.
How they do it:
Phishing scams – Scammers send e-mail that looks like it is from a legitimate business or corporation such as a bank, BC Hydro or Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
The letter may ask the user to confirm their personal information, or click a link or “pop-up” (a widow that suddenly appears on your screen) that leads to another official looking form that asks you to fill in personal and banking information and/or your SIN number.
The letter may contain a threat that says that you MUST reply within a specific time or your account will be cancelled or frozen.
Malicious Software – There are many types of malicious software; spyware, malware, Trojan horse, key loggers….the list goes on. The purpose is to allow the scammer access to your computer and find personal files, banking information, pins and passwords. Remember in the phishing e-mail when they asked you to click the link or pop-up? That may have launched a malicious program in your computer that is now allowing the scammer to find your personal info.
What can you do?
Remember legitimate agencies like your bank, BC Hydro or CRA will not ask you to confirm personal account information on line. Many banks, BC Hydro and the CRA have fraud alert notifications on their websites detailing the latest fraud. Take the time to read up on what’s happening.
Learn about and the security features on your computer before you start surfing the net, paying bills, banking online or establishing e-mail, social media or chat room accounts.
Do not open e-mails that you are not expecting or that are not addressed directly to you. Delete spam or garbage e-mail. Do not click on pop-ups that you do not know are associate to the site you are on. Spam and pop-ups can contain malicious software that launches the moment you open it.
Protect your computer by password protecting your network and installing up to date protective anti-virus & malware software.
Protect yourself by learning about current Frauds and Scams and your how your computer works by visiting sites such as:
www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca; www.bbb.org/mbc/bbb-top-10-scams; www.consumerhandbook.ca; http://computer.howstuffworks.com/security-channel.htm; http://computer.howstuffworks.com/phishing.htm
Steps to take if you do find that you have fallen victim to an Internet scam:
- Contact the RCMP;
- Notify your bank, business or agency and let them know;
- Place a Fraud Alert with the two Nation Credit Bureaus: Equifax Canada 1-800-465-7166;TransUnion 1-877-525-3823;
- Contact the Canadian Antifraud Centre 1-888-495-8501;
- Take your computer to be examined by a Computer specialist.
The Vernon Community Policing Office will be holding a Frauds Cons and Scams workshop Wednesday March 25, 9 a.m. at the Schubert Centre. Seating is limited. Please call the community policing office at 250-550-7840 to Register.
For further information contact Rachael Zubick, coordinator, Vernon Community Policing, 250-550-7840.