The Dangers of Phishing: How to Identify and Protect Yourself


In this day and age, we rely on the Internet for its convenience, such as online shopping or banking. Although the Internet solves various pain points in our lives, it also comes with its dangers, such as cybercriminals who try to exploit users online. One of these cyber attacks is known as “phishing” – below is more information about this issue and how you can identify and protect yourself from phishing:


What is Phishing?

Phishing is a general term used to describe emails, text messages or websites that try to obtain personal information from recipients by posing as trustworthy organizations or individuals. They may impersonate a trusted individual in a professional organization or use the company’s logos and graphics as an attempt to pass off as legitimate content.

The purpose of this form of content is to get a quick reaction from users. For example, they may threaten to close down your bank account unless immediate action is taken, such as asking to verify your account by entering your personal information in a web form. Please note that phishing can come in various forms, from an alleged professional asking for gift cards to an alleged financial institution asking to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, around 156 million email scams/phishing emails are sent out everyday and 80,000 individuals become victims to this form of cyber attack on a daily basis. Falling victim to these phishing scams can have serious implications, especially  when cybercriminals ask for personal information, such as one’s social insurance number, driver’s license number or banking information. This information can be used to transfer funds, open new bank accounts or apply for loans. As of today, approximately 1 million Canadians have entered their bank details on a website they are unfamiliar with.


How to Identify and Protect Yourself From Phishing

In order to avoid falling victim to this form of cyber attack, the RCMP has provided information on the ways to identify phishing scams and prevent future attacks:

  • Phishing messages are normally not personalized and the content may include serious consequences if immediate action is not taken. Here is an example of a catchphrase they may use: Dear Online Account Holder, Access To Your Account Is Currently Unavailable…
  • Be wary of email or text message senders who ask for personal information – when in doubt, it is always best to call and double-check with the alleged organization asking for personal information.
  • Check your bank, debit and credit card statements regularly in order to ensure you are aware of all of the transactions. If a certain transaction does not look legitimate, contact your financial institution and report it.
  • If an email link looks suspicious from an unknown sender, do not click on it.
  • Before opening emails from unknown senders, it is recommended to run them through your computer’s anti-virus software.

Phishing Emails Targeted at Financial Institutions

There is an increase in activity where cybercriminals impersonate the CEO, C-Level Executive, Board Member or owner and make unusual requests, such as requesting wire transfers, gift cards or other cash transfers from the recipient. The email addresses of the alleged financial leaders are often very similar to the original and may only differ by a single letter. If you receive unusual requests from an alleged financial leader, it is recommended to call the individual to confirm whether this request is legitimate and double-check with another senior executive within the organization.

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