Calgary, AB,

Calgary police focus on email phishing scams targeting businesses during Cyber Awareness Month

With several local businesses reporting financial losses due to email phishing scams designed to look like company invoices or requests from company executives, the Calgary Police Service is helping businesses spot the signs of phishing scams.

So far this year, seven Calgary businesses have reported a combined loss of $1.7 million as a result of fraudulent invoice notices sent to and paid by company financial staff.

Cyber scammers use a variety of different scenarios to secure company funds through sending targeted emails posing as actual staff members or senior employees.

Typically, employees working in payroll or accounts payable departments are contacted by someone via email who is believed to be an employee requesting changes to direct deposit information. Once the information has been changed, employee paycheques or company invoices are then unknowingly deposited into fraudulent accounts.

In other cases, employees are contacted via email by someone who they believe to be their boss asking the employee to send funds to a specific recipient via e-transfer or using pre-paid gift cards, only to find out later the email address was slightly changed by the scammer to appear legitimate, when it's not.

“Scammers slightly alter the email addresses of company owners, executives or employees working in financial roles to look like the message is coming from a trusted sender in order to trick the recipient into providing financial or confidential information,” says Staff Sergeant Graeme Smiley of the Calgary Police Service Cybercrimes Team. “This leads to company accounts, calendars and data being compromised and funds being lost.”

Here is how businesses can spot the red flags of a potential phishing scam:

  • Carefully examine email addresses and links in messages asking for changes made to financial accounts. Look for misspellings, new punctuation or different email handles.
  • Verify payment requests in-person or by calling the person before transferring funds.
  • Set up two-factor authentication on all accounts.
  • Be wary of how payment is being requested. Official payments will not be requested using pre-paid gift cards.
  • Don’t click on unsolicited links. Be wary if you are being pressured to act quickly on a request that requires you to provide or make changes to sensitive information.

The Calgary Police Service encourages anyone who has suffered a financial loss as a result of fraud to report it to police by calling the non-emergency number at 403-266-1234.

If you have received a fraudulent text message, email or phone call but have not sustained a financial loss, please report it to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:

TALK: 1-800-222-8477
APP: P3 Tips