Envision Financial cybersecurity expert Ryan Smith watches the trends around online frauds as a way to protect client members.

Be cyber safe: Common scams to watch out for

Following a few simple tips can ensure you have the upper hand over fraudsters

Have you been victimized by an online scam that led to a financial loss? Maybe you provided information to what you thought was a reputable source but found they were not who they said they were?

You’re not alone. Marking October as national Cybersecurity Awareness Month Envision Financial, A Division of First West Credit Union is doing its best to educate its customers and the general public about the dangers of online frauds.

“We feel it’s our duty and our obligation to protect our members, and as part of this awareness we want to educate people,” says Wendy Kraft, Branch Manager at Envision Financial in Kitimat.

Part of that education comes via the work of Envision Financial senior cyber security expert Ryan Smith, who says the biggest overall threat is “human hacking,” scenarios where people are tricked into taking action or divulging information when they might not otherwise.

Those decisions, he says, are most often triggered by one of four feelings in the victim: greed, urgency, curiosity or fear.

Criminals prey on public emotions

If you’re someone who doesn’t get suspicious when contacted by an unknown person or organization, or in an unusual way by a known entity, you may be vulnerable to certain types of electronic frauds.

How about the email that promises some type of reward if you click on a link or enter your login information, i.e. a fake email from Amazon with a great deal on the latest toy?

Relating to financial institutions, there’s the “urgent” emailed message indicating your account has been compromised or locked that asks you to click on a link to secure or reset your account. As Smith says, these links often take unsuspecting individuals to a webpage that attempts to steal your credentials. “We have seen a significant increase in these types of scams related to the use of technologies such as Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite.”

Younger generations not immune to cyber crime

While people under age 30 are often more tech savvy than their elders, they can also be among the more curious computer users, which can lead to trouble online.

Such scams can come in the form of a message from your favourite social media platform, say Instagram or Snapchat. You might read that your picture has shown up on some site, or be told you have to check out some funny cat video. But instead of cats getting scared by cucumbers, you’re led to a website that demands your password or sees you inadvertantly download malware to your computer or mobile device.

Scams that are old are made new again

The incidence of scammers preying on people’s fear is on the increase, Smith says, and many are using the phone to target individuals. The Canada Revenue Agency tax scam, for one, has been around many years and is seeing a resurgence.

”I have personally had about five calls referencing the CRA from a Constable or Officer Smith about my back taxes, and that if I don’t pay them right away I would be arrested and hauled off to jail,” he says of the fake situation.

So what’s the best way to avoid this and other scams? Simply delete or ignore the email messages, or hang up if you are called. If you feel you gave up sensitive information such as a password or personal details, contact your service provider or financial institution right away to change your passwords, and consider having credit monitoring put in place.

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This information is not intended to make you swear off your computer forever, but is meant to provide tools and know-how with which to avoid being vulnerable to fraud and to stay safe when navigating online.You can also follow Envision Financial on Facebook.

Find more tips about Cybersecurity Awareness Month at getcybersafe.gc.ca.

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