Visa Canada and the RCMP launched an awareness campaign to educate and warn Canadians about phishing, an online scam that has potentially taken sensitive financial and personal information from some 200,000 Canadians.
Nov. 3 was designated “Anti-Phishing Day” in Canada by Visa, the RCMP and the Competition Bureau of Canada.
“Phishing, sometimes known as brand spoofing, is one of the fastest-growing scams taking place on the Internet,” said Derek Fry, president of Visa Canada Association during his Anti-Phishing day presentation at the Toronto Stock Exchange in Toronto.
Phishing involves fraudulent but authentic-looking, branded e-mails and Web sites that lure surfers into divulging personal information. The technique is often used by criminals who wants to “steal your identity and impersonate you,” Fry added.
Phishing has become more closely merged with spamming as phishing scam artists often send out bogus e-mails to thousands of people in the hope of convincing someone to voluntarily give up user names, passwords, credit card numbers or a SIN number.
According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, an industry association that focuses on tackling identity theft and fraud resulting from phishing and e-mail spoofing, there were some 1,974 reported incidents of global phishing attacks reported in July of this year.
According to Visa, among some 1,200 Canadian interviewed by the company in a survey designed to gauge Canadian’s awareness of phishing and its dangers, four reported being victims of phishing.
“If you extrapolate this four per cent from the study, it means that approximately 200,000 Canadians divulged personal or financial information as a result of a phishing scam,” Fry added.
The study suggests that Canadian remain largely ignorant about the dangers of phishing. Only 16 per cent of the Canadians surveyed who had e-mail accounts and Internet access were even familiar with the term phishing and only 27 per cent said they knew about phishing even after it was explained to them.
Peter German, chief superintendent for the RCMP, warns phishing is becoming part of a growing number of more sophisticated financial crimes perpetrated using the stolen identities of phishing victims. Last year, identity theft affected more than 13,000 Canadians and “resulted in more than $21.5 million in losses.”
Because many phishing e-mails are disguised to resemble legitimate messages from established corporate clients such as a bank, credit card company or retailer, German suggests Canadians look carefully at such e-mails for signs they are fake.
“Look for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors,” German said. “Banks, credit card companies and respected online retailers don’t usually make spelling mistakes. For some reason, phishing fraud artists do.”
Both the RCMP and Visa says Canadians should report any incidents of phishing and either forward the suspicious email to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or contact www.recol.ca.
To learn more about phishing, Visa suggests Canadians go to www.visa.ca/phishing.