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Phishing scam victim warns others

By: Stacie Snow

  |  Posted: Thursday, Feb 16, 2012 06:00 am

Airdrie resident Coreen Bannerholt has come forward and shared her experience with an e-mail scam last year to warn other residents and help them avoid becoming victims as well.
Airdrie resident Coreen Bannerholt has come forward and shared her experience with an e-mail scam last year to warn other residents and help them avoid becoming victims as well.
Covy Moore/Rocky View Publishing

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A woman who fell for a phishing scam is warning residents to read their e-mails carefully and not to give out any personal information.

Airdronian Coreen Bannerholt was on her way to a ski hill almost a year ago when she saw an e-mail that asked her to update her account information.

“It asked for my e-mail address and password,” she said.

“Normally, I know better but I was in a hurry because I was headed out of town and I responded quickly.”

While she was skiing, Bannerholt received a number of text messages from friends and family asking if she was alright.

“They sent an e-mail to all my contacts saying that I was in another country and my bag was stolen and I needed funds immediately,” she said.

A friend in the Ukraine sent a money order but was able to cancel it when she sent out an e-mail telling everyone in her contacts that it was a scam and she was not in need.

“I was able to cancel the e-mail address but it was a hassle for months after,” she said.

“It felt like a real violation.”

This type of scam is known as phishing, also called “brand spoofing.”

It is the creation of e-mail messages and web pages that are replicas of existing, legitimate sites and businesses.

These websites and e-mails are used to trick users into submitting personal, financial, or password data.

These e-mails often ask for information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, social insurance numbers and passwords that will be used to commit fraud.

Bannerholt called a friend in the RCMP and he told her to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

“They were very helpful, but all of my contacts had to change their e-mail addresses,” she said.

Bannerholt advises residents to take their time and read their e-mails carefully.

“If an e-mail is asking for personal information, companies don’t do that. They either have your information already or they would use other means because they know it is not a safe way to get information. If you see an e-mail like that, don’t open it and delete it and you won’t put yourself at risk,” she said.

Donna Pearce, IT coordinator for the Airdrie Public Library, said she has heard a number of instances where people have been victimized by phishing scams.

“We want to help the public be more literate with the Internet and information technology,” she said.

“Just because something looks like a authentic logo doesn’t mean it is legitimate. If they are asking for personal information, it’s a scam.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of trusting people and people that are unaware.”

Pearce said it is OK to take your time and research an e-mail or phone call if there is any reason to be suspicious.

According to the RCMP’s Commercial Crime Branch, fraud-related offences are now thought to be as profitable as drug-related offences, estimated at between $10 and $30 billion annually in Canada.

“It’s important for everyone to be careful and to be alert to possible frauds,” said RCMP Superintendent Steve Foster, director of the RCMP Commercial Crime Branch.

Almost 80 per cent are the work of criminal organizations, he added.

“Fraud should concern all Canadians because it destabilizes our national economy and strengthens organized crime groups,” said Foster.

“The impact on individuals, families and businesses is devastating: retirement savings, homes, businesses, and in some cases, lives, have been lost. While fraud losses are serious, the good news is that the majority can be prevented by identifying the methods used by fraudsters.”

How to spot scams:

• Protect your computer with anti-virus software, spyware filters, e-mail filters and firewall programs.

• Contact the financial institution immediately and report your suspicions.

• Do not reply to any e-mail that requests your personal information.

• Look for misspelled words.

• Always report phishing or ‘spoofed’ e-mails.

• If you’ve received one of these suspicious e-mails, report it to info@antifraudcentre.ca or the financial institution that it appears to be from.

For more information or to report a fraud, visit www.phonebusters.com


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