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Beware of 'phishing' scams: OPP

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Members of the OPP's Anti-Rackets Branch, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and the Ontario's Serious Fraud Office are warning Ontario residents to check their e-mails, phone messages, and computer pop-ups.

All are tools that criminals can use to extort money and personal information from you.

“Phishing," ransom, and service scams have the same basic goal. Typically, individuals make contact with you through your computer or via text message to tell you that you have "won a prize” or that you owe a sum of money.

Some fraudsters will tell you they can provide telecommunications, Internet, financial, medical, and energy services for special or preferred rates.

Although 95 percent of the crimes go unreported, “phishing,” ransom, and service scams cost victims roughly $15 million across Canada, including about $7 million in Ontario.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, some 6,000 people fell victim to these scams in 2018.

Investigators find two commonly-used scams. In one version, the victim receives an e-mail or someone calls pretending to represent a well-known computer-based company and claims the victim's computer is sending out viruses or has been hacked.

The scammer will request to gain remote access to the computer and may run some programs or change some settings.

The scammer then will advise that a fee is required for the service and request credit card information. In some cases, the scammer will send a transfer from the victim's computer through a money service.

The end result is that the victim pays for a service that was never needed as the computer was never infected.

The SFO indicates a more surreptitious, large-scale “phishing” and ransom scam is in circulation.

Malware-infected e-mails were opened by employees of a large retail store that unintentionally launched a “phishing” attack, allowing hackers to steal the vendor's credentials.

Once the vendor information successfully was obtained, the company's customer database was exploited, exposing millions of clients, including customers' names, mailing addresses, and other personal information.

The data breach revealed millions of customers' credit and debit card information.

In the end, the company estimated the data breach caused a multi-million-dollar loss.

If you or someone you know suspect they've been a victim of a “phishing,” ransom, or service scam, contact your local police service and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or through its website.

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