Calgary, AB,

Police caution citizens about popular phishing scams during Cyber Awareness Month

Chances are most Calgarians have been on the receiving end of a phishing scam attempt. Whether it’s an official-looking link sent via text message, email or direct message on a social media app enticing the person on the other end to provide personal information, Calgary police are helping citizens spot the red flags of cyber phishing scams.

Calgary police have received approximately 2,600 reports of phishing scams so far this year resulting in thousands lost to cyber scammers.  

Phishing is described as a technique used for attempting to acquire personal, financial, and other sensitive information through a fraudulent solicitation or transaction via email, online, through social media or text message.

In the majority of cases, the phishing links look like they are from reputable banks and financial institutions, government organizations or other well-known businesses or retailers, making it easy for anyone to click on malicious links or engage in conversation with the fraudsters.

In cases where victims have clicked on a phishing link, they are prompted to provide banking details and other personal information only to later discover unauthorized e-transfers sent or withdrawals made from their bank accounts. In other cases, victims have had their accounts taken over and personal information changed, adding another layer of victimization by compromising peoples’ identities.

“As we enter into the third week of Cyber Awareness Month, our hope is to educate Calgarians about the warning signs of potential phishing scams,” says Staff Sergeant Graeme Smiley of the Calgary Police Service Cybercrimes Team. “The reality is that scammers use clever and convincing tactics to lure victims on a variety of platforms. Given the broad scope of these scams, it can be very difficult to fully investigate these types of crimes, which is why prevention is key.”

As with most scams, it is believed  the number of these occurrences are under-reported. 

Citizens are reminded of the following tips to protect themselves from phishing emails or texts:

  • Be suspicious of unexpected and unusual emails or texts, especially ones demanding some form of urgent action. Never click links, send money, or respond until you have confirmed the message to be legitimate. 
  • Know how to recognize phishing emails:
    • Check who sent the email. Be suspicious of emails sent from people you don't communicate with regularly and look for spelling mistakes or extra letters, numbers and symbols in the sender's email address.
    • Check for bad grammar and spelling mistakes in the body of the email. 
    • Check hyperlinks by hovering your mouse over a link to check its true destination. Never open attachments or click on links until you've verified it is a legitimate email. 
    • Check the date and time the email was sent. Phishing emails are often sent at times you wouldn't normally receive emails.
  • When in doubt, delete the message. Legitimate businesses won’t use high-pressure tactics to force you into making a quick decision.
  • Legitimate businesses will not contact you via text message for things like verifying your account or financial information.  
  • Change passwords regularly and after an account has been compromised by a data breach.

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