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April 2019

Cybersecurity: What You Need to Know

Today’s threats and what you can do to protect yourself online.

Family Taxes No matter how often we’ve been warned about phishing scams and shady web-based transactions, we still fall for the fraudsters.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), 2018 was another record-breaking year for scams across Canada. The BBB reports Canadians lost over $121 million to fraudsters last year. That figure is probably just the tip of the iceberg once you add up losses from those too reluctant to admit they’ve been duped. “When taking into account that only 5% of fraud cases are reported, the more realistic annual tab is closer to $3 billion,” according to BBB president Danielle Primrose.

Cybersecurity defined

The term "cybersecurity" covers a large and varied field of threats to people, organizations and infrastructures through the malicious use of computers and the internet. Internet-enabled crime provides criminals anonymity, access to information, no geographical restrictions, and avenues for old and new scams and tricks.

Suspect emails, fake websites, phony links and text messages, even the old fashioned phone call, are doors through which crooks can steal your personal information, infect your devices with malware or con you. Social engineering fraud – where criminals exploit a person’s trust and trick their victims into giving out confidential personal information and funds – is quickly moving up the danger list.

Cybersecurity is a growing concern for many, including BlueShore Financial clients. Nearly 65% of clients responding to a recent online panel survey indicated they are worried about being vulnerable to identity theft (65%), having social media/email hacked (54%) and downloading a malicious app (47%). About 30% have actually been victim to some kind of fraudulent activity or security breach, most commonly: downloading a malicious app (13%) and having their social media/email hacked resulting in no access or stolen information (9%). This highlights why it’s so important to be vigilant about safeguarding your personal and financial information.

Who fraudsters target and why

Fraud doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care about age, gender, income level or race. It’s an equal-opportunity threat to people from all walks of life.

It used to be considered common knowledge that seniors and new immigrants were the most vulnerable to fraud. However, recent reports indicate that technology-savvy youth are more likely to be swindled by fraudsters than seniors, according to the results of a Better Business Bureau survey that turns the stereotype of money scams on its head.

Research by the BBB indicates millennials are more vulnerable than baby boomers when it comes to getting duped for their hard-earned cash.

11% of seniors reported losing money in a scam, while 89% recognized the threat before getting fooled. Among the 18 to 24 demographic, 34% reported losing money.

Results like these flip the stereotypes of seniors being the primary target of fraudsters, according to one of the report's authors.

"These stereotypes are strongly held and they are wrong," said Emma Fletcher, product manager with the Better Business Bureau Institute. "We are all at risk, but younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed."

You might also believe fraud artists only care about big money. But research from the Canadian Securities Administrators found that half of the scams they analyzed involved less than $5,000. The majority of those defrauded fail to recover anything. And don’t assume fraud is always about cash. Just as valuable to thieves is your personal information which can be used to steal your identity or resold to other crooks.

Types of cyber-scams and how to spot them

Fraudsters rely on the speedy evolution of technology to perpetrate their crimes. The CAFC’s statistics show that last year 56% of fraud losses were a result of email and the internet, far outpacing telephone (19%) and in-person (16%) scams. And with fraud now piggy-backing on the explosion of social media and use of mobile devices like smartphones, Wi-Fi and tablets, cyberspace has become crime’s new frontier.

1. Romance scams

Even the search for love can be a trap. “Catfishing” through online dating continues to be a lucrative and seductive business for scammers, as they manipulate victims to transfer money or even become money “mules” moving funds cross-border. By BBB estimates, catphishing and related romance scams netted fraudsters over $22.5 million in 2018, placing them at the top of the heap in dollars lost.

Tips:

  • Never wire or transfer money to someone you haven’t met.
  • Don’t share personal information on dating sites.
  • Be wary of a person who claims they are out of the country and can’t meet you in person.

2. Income tax extortion scams

The numbers suggest that over $6 million was lost in 2018 with the CRA income tax scam. In a recent version of this ruse, scammers posing as CRA representatives demand you come up with alleged back taxes, threatening you with legal or police action if you don’t pay.

Tips:

  • The CRA will not make threatening phone calls or ask for personal information via phone or email.
  • Delete texts and emails claiming to be from the CRA.
  • Government agencies do not accept Bitcoin or gift cards.

3. Online purchase scams

Online purchase scams can range from fake websites and free trials, to purchasing counterfeit goods and receiving fraudulent cheques. The financial impact from these scams last year was $3.5 million. Beware of fake websites and if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Tips:

  • Always shop on legitimate websites and use reputable payment portals.
  • Never wire money to someone you do not know.
  • Frequently check credit card statements.
  • If possible, do transactions locally and in person.

4. Employment scams

This scam targets job seekers, even those who use reputable employment sites. More than $4.5 million was lost in these types of scams last year. Scammers may send cheques with a significant overpayment and request that you forward the excess money to someone else. The cheques are always fake and the victim will be left covering the costs.

Tips:

  • Do your research on a company before accepting a job offer. Look out for poor grammar, unrealistic salary offers and insufficient details about the job.
  • If you did not apply for a job, then you didn’t get hired for one.
  • A legitimate company will never ask you to forward money or to pay an administration fee.

5. Phishing

Phishing is when Internet scammers use email lures to “fish” for passwords and financial data from the sea of online users. Phishing attacks use “spoofed” (look-alike) email messages and fraudulent websites designed to trick recipients into divulging personal, business and sensitive information such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords or social insurance numbers. Phishing messages often appear to come from large and well-known companies or websites with a broad customer or subscriber base such as well-known financial institutions, online retailers and credit card companies.

Phishing can include anything from fake invoices and online endorsements to wire fraud. Phony emails and fake websites are created to scam the public and they continue to be a huge problem. The BBB says losses are far too reaching to track but it’s estimated that more than $20 million was lost last year.

Tips:

  • If you receive an email that looks suspicious, contact the business directly.
  • Only shop on legitimate websites.
  • Don’t click on links if you have any doubts about the sender of an email or a website.
  • Look for spelling errors or other anomalies in the sender’s email address and the URL (web site address).

The Little Black Book of Scams

The Little Black Book of Scams is a handy reference guide explaining how to recognize and protect yourself from most common scams. The guide can be downloaded free of charge from the Government of Canada Competition Bureau.

How BlueShore protects your information

BlueShore Financial has always been committed to protecting your privacy and we recognize the critical importance of preserving the confidentiality of your sensitive financial information. We ensure that appropriate safeguards and security controls are built into everything we do.

Information security is a core priority within BlueShore Financial. Our employees must follow procedures to safeguard your banking information, and agree to maintain client confidentiality in their employment agreements.

Sophisticated controls are built into our systems and banking software to secure access to your accounts. We stand behind them. If you experience losses from unauthorized access to your accounts through Online or Mobile Banking, and that access occurs as a result of breaches of our security systems, you will be reimbursed for 100% of your loss.

Recent Cybersecurity Seminars

To help our clients better understand today’s cyber threats, we recently held two successful cybersecurity seminars at our Lonsdale and Kerrisdale branches. These provided an excellent overview of today’s most common scams, and tips and tricks to separate the real from the fraudulent.

Please visit our seminar resources page to see information from the seminar.

How you can protect yourself

We take the safety and security of your personal information very seriously, but we also need you to help, especially when you're online. The most important thing is to keep your PIN and Personal Access Code for Online and Mobile Banking absolutely confidential. Your PIN or Access Code must be memorized. They should not be written down or easy to guess. Your risk is particularly increased of your PIN or Access Code is kept written in your wallet or on or near your computer or mobile device.

Here are some other basic security measures that you can take:

  • Set up security alerts as a convenient way for you to be notified by text or email of activity on your account.
  • Choose passwords that are complex and unique. Do not use your date of birth, your address, phone number, BlueShore Access Card or other numbers that are easy to guess based upon personal identifying information. And remember to change them often.
  • Use a firewall to protect your home network and family from offensive websites and potential hackers.
  • Use anti-virus software that includes an auto-update feature (at least every week).
  • Use a supported browser and keep it up to date.
  • Secure your wireless network, and keep it password protected, whether it’s your home wifi or your devices personal hotspot.

It’s always a good time to update your cybersecurity awareness and your online habits. BlueShore has an extensive online resource library of information on safeguarding your privacy and security.

Conclusion – Stay ahead of fraud

Too many unwary Canadians will fall victim to scams this year. Don’t be one of them. Reporting suspected or actual cyber fraud is crucial, so the authorities and trusted organizations can better protect consumers and businesses.

If you think you’ve been targeted by an email scam or other fraudulent activity, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, through its website at www.antifraudcentre.ca or by telephone at 1-888-495-8501.

If you think your BlueShore Financial banking has been compromised, contact us at 604.982.8000 (1.888.713.6728).

The information contained in this article was obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, we cannot guarantee that it is accurate or complete. This article is provided as a general source of information and should not be considered personal investment advice or solicitation to buy or sell any mutual funds and other securities.

Insurance services provided through BlueShore Wealth.

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