During this upcoming holiday season, we need to do our best to keep ourselves and our community healthy. And that doesn’t just mean continuing to wear a mask and washing your hands — it also means protecting your cyber health by not falling victim to phone or Internet scams.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are still launching online scams and phishing attacks against individuals and organizations. In order to make your life a little easier, here’s how to recognize phishing scams and malicious phone calls, what to do if you think you’re being scammed and how to get cyber safe.
What is phishing anyway?
Phishing is a cyber scamming technique used to extort confidential information, such as passwords, credit card numbers or banking information. Phishers use emails, phone calls or text messages to act as companies you trust and ask you to provide confidential details, financial information or access to your accounts.
For example, you might receive an email that says your account will be deactivated if you do not confirm your personal information immediately. The email will appear to contain a link to your bank (or another reputable business) where you can reactivate your account. Instead, this link will lead to a fake — but convincing — webpage that allows the phisher to gain access to your private information.
Protect yourself from scams.
Know what to look for. Be wary of any emails, calls or text messages that request sensitive information or push you to take urgent action. If something generally feels off, trust your instincts and hang up the phone, or ignore the email or text.
- Double down on passwords and security questions. Protect your accounts by using complex passwords and unique answers to security questions that only you would know. This is especially important for websites that hold sensitive information, such as your online banking or CRA account. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible to keep your accounts extra secure. And, of course, never share your passwords with anyone.
- Update your computer and antivirus software regularly. Many of us ignore those constant software updates, but they contain crucial security features that can protect you from online scams. Keep your devices, applications and antivirus software up-to-date. If you are a Cogeco Business Internet customer, activate your included security licences. You may also want to back up your personal information and important files, either to the cloud or to an external hard drive. That way, you will be able to recover your data in case of a potential security violation.
- If you receive a suspicious email, text, or phone call, the most important thing to do is stay calm and think before you react. If you do get caught in a scam, don’t panic. First, collect all information related to the scam, including documents, receipts, copies of emails or text messages, and your financial information. Then contact your bank, credit card companies, or other necessary authorities to flag your accounts and change your passwords.
You can also help prevent phishing scams by reporting them to the police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (online or at 1-888-495-8501). Continue to monitor your accounts regularly and report any suspicious activity. And be sure to tell your family, friends and colleagues about any fraudulent emails, calls or texts to prevent others from becoming a victim.
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