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Scam alert: how to protect yourself

  • 3.5 min read

This is the second in a two-part series on fraudulent phone calls, email and text messages attempting to garnish personal information and money from Canadian citizens, including farmers. This week looks at verifying if the email, text or caller is fraudulent and at some security steps in place by FCC. Last week's story looked at the growing trend of the schemes.

Experts say Canadians, including farmers, need to have a healthy dose of scepticism when it comes to who’s asking for personal information in phone calls, emails and text messages.

A rash of attacks on Canadians’ confidential information from fraudsters has resulted in lost savings and income for some who have fallen victim to the schemes.

Check it out

If a request for personal information is received, the request should be checked out before any information is shared, experts say.

Check with the person you deal with most frequently at the institution, says Jennifer Hogan, a senior security analyst within the IT division of FCC. If the request is fraudulent, that alerts the organization to the activity, she says.

If a request is received which appears to come from FCC, Hogan says the receiver should verify the authenticity by calling a member of their FCC relationship team directly, using a phone number they know is correct, such as from a business card or the FCC website.

Be cautious with requests for personal or confidential information.

Shawna-Kay Thomas of the Better Business Bureau agrees and says it’s always better to be cautious with requests for personal or confidential information.

"If you receive a call asking for that kind of information, you may want to hang up the phone and call back a legitimate number you have for that particular government agency and then follow-up with the request that is being made of you," Thomas says.

She adds no personal information should ever be left on an answering machine.

Jeff Thomson is a senior RCMP intelligence officer currently managing the fraud prevention and intake unit at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

He says scams are tracked and a list is available on the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website, or by calling their toll-free line 1-888-495–8501 where they have several resources.

“We try to give you some key indicators as to what to watch for,” Thomson says of the website content.

Talk to others

Thomson says everyone gains when information about phone scams and how to avoid them is shared with family and friends.

"In doing so, you hear what is going on, on the ground,” Thomson says. “They may have heard something that you did not hear about, and in hearing your story, they're able to prevent you from falling for those scandals."

Thomson says when a suspicious phone call is received, Canadians may want to consider using an initiative started in the United Kingdom to combat schemes, called Take 5, Tell 2.

"Any types of funny calls you get - whether it is someone calling and threatening you or scaring you into performing something or asking for personal information - take a step back, don't react, and then talk to other people."

He says taking a step back and reflecting for five minutes or so, then speaking about the experience with two friends or family members, helps spread the word.

Protecting information

Hogan says FCC uses multiple defensive measures to protect from email scams, including spam filters, antivirus and anti-malware scanners.

"This way, if one control fails, there are others to help detect and delay the attack," Hogan says.

She says even with these measures, phishing emails can still get through – which is why FCC employees have a critical role to play in protecting information.

"We continue to provide our employees with cybersecurity training and information on the latest security threats to help them be aware of email scams," Hogan says.

Suspicious phone calls, email or text messages should be reported to the local RCMP detachment. If it is specifically from FCC, contact the customer service line at 1-888-332-3301.

Bottom line

Schemes requesting confidential personal or banking information are a regular occurrence for many Canadians, whether by phone call, email or text message. Experts offer several tips for gaining knowledge and verifying the authenticity of the requests, such as confirming the source of the call with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or calling the organization directly. Experts also recommend sharing stories of fraudster requests with family and friends, in order to raise awareness. 

Article by: Craig Lester