Stay cyber safe during COVID-19

April 09, 2020
4 minute read
Stay cyber safe during COVID-19

Staying cyber safe is always important, but right now it’s important to be even more vigilant. Unfortunately, reports of fraud and cyber scams designed to take advantage of Canadians’ COVID-19 concerns are on the rise. We wanted to take this opportunity to remind our members about best practices and how you can protect yourself from cyber and phone scams designed to trick you into providing personal information they can then use.

Right now, caution is your best defense. If you aren’t sure if something is legitimate, it’s safest to assume that it isn’t. Be particularly wary of any calls or emails pressing you to take action or provide personal information.

Here are some tips to help you protect yourself from cyber and phone scams.

When browsing for COVID-19 information online

With COVID-19 news being top of mind for many Canadians, some cyber scammers have created malicious sites posing as COVID-19 information sites. This is why it’s important to only visit sites from known sources, such as government sites and health authorities or reputable news sites.

Tip: Never click on links from unknown sources, and only use your search browser to search for the information you are looking for.

When using personal or work email accounts, shopping, or communicating online

If an email seems suspicious or doesn’t feel right, err on the side of caution. Here are some clues that may indicate a scam:

  • Emails creating a tremendous sense of urgency (i.e., emails trying to get you to act NOW).
  • Someone asking for information they should already know, such as bank account, SIN number, or your birthday.
  • Requests for your password.
  • Something that seems too good to be true (such as randomly winning a prize or giveaway or incredible deals on household supplies).
  • An email from a friend, family member, or acquaintance that doesn’t seem right, because of words or phrases that they wouldn’t normally use.
  • If the email from a close acquaintance seems legitimate, verify it by calling, texting, or emailing them at a different email address if you have one. Using a different channel to authenticate the email will establish whether it is legitimate or if their email account may be compromised.

Here are some helpful tips when you’re online:

  • Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in suspicious emails. If you receive an email from a sender that appears to be less than reputable, delete the email immediately.
  • Don’t use the same password for multiple online accounts. Using different passwords that are sufficiently robust is the best way to ensure all of your accounts are safe.
  • Only connect to trusted sources of internet or Wi-Fi that are protected with a password you know to be secure.

Always remember to fully logout of sites with sensitive personal information, like email and personal banking sites.

Phone Scams

Phone and cell phone scams are also on the rise, so it’s important to be particularly cautious right now. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to only answer calls from people you know. However, in this day and age some fraudsters are able to clone numbers to make it look like it’s coming from a person or organization you trust. Your best course of action, particularly for organizations, is to let the call go to voicemail.

If an organization leaves you a voicemail asking you to call back with personal information or threatens to cut off services, it’s likely a scam. Your best bet is to contact the organization directly through their customer service number to inquire about the message you received. This is especially important for anyone close to you that is applying for financial assistance from the government due to COVID-19.

If you do answer the call, it’s best not to provide any personal information on the call. Even if you believe the call is legitimate, your best bet at protecting yourself is to call the company back directly through their customer service number (do not call a number the individual provides to you).

Helpful resources

For more information about cyber security and to stay updated on the latest news, check out Public Safety Canada’s website. To report a scam or fraud, visit Consumer Protection Ontario, or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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