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OPP warn of email cyber security threats

As part of International Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) remind computer users to be aware of email scams criminals use to commit identity theft and other crimes.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 5,179 ‘phishing’ complaints in 2015, and identified 1,704 people as victims who lost more than $508,000. In 2015, the CAFC received 295 complaints from Canadian consumers who received a ‘ransomware’ pop‐up message. Of those, 135 victims were identified as having lost a total of more than $47,000.00 – roughly $348 per victim.

Phishing is any e-mail falsely claiming to be from an established legitimate organization such as a financial institution, business or government agency.

The e-mail may request or direct the consumer to visit a certain website to update or provide personal or financial information and passwords.
It is really a malicious attempt to collect customer information for the purpose of committing fraud.

Ransomware produces what has been called a “Trojan” or “scareware” because a notice pops up that appears to come from a law enforcement or “official” agency.

The message is a false accusation of illegal online activities that demands the consumer pay a fee via money transfer or credit card to unlock the computer. When the victim submits their payment details, the criminals steal and use the victim’s personal information.

Of the 156-million phishing emails sent every day, about 16-million make it through filters and eight million are opened.

The OPP estimates 80,000 people fall for a scam every day and share their personal information, thereby creating 30-million potential victims every year.

“Criminal organizations relentlessly work to find any way possible as often as possible to come between people and their money. Your best defence against becoming a victim is to use common sense and steer clear of suspicious emails and shady websites,” said Mike Bickerton, Det-Insp with the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch.

To recognize and avoid phishing:
Protect your computer with anti-virus software, spyware filters, email filters and firewall programs.
Contact the named financial institution immediately and report your suspicions.
Do not reply to any email that requests your personal information.
Look for misspelled words (and extra or unusual words in the email address).
Always report phishing or ‘spoofed’ emails.

Signs that you may have encountered ransomware:
A pop‐up message or banner with a ransom request.
A user cannot usually access anything on the computer beyond the screen.
Sending money outside of the traditional or mainstream banking system.
Sending money to “unlock” a computer.

Tips to protect yourself from ransomware:
Never click on a pop-up that claims your computer has a virus.
Update your anti-virus software often and scan your computer for viruses regularly.
Don’t click on links or attachments in e-mails sent to you by someone you don’t know.
Turn on your browser’s pop-up blocking feature.
Never download anti-virus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an e-mail.

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of phishing or ransomware, contact your local police service or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, report it to the OPP online at or through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) at

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