As more communication has moved online during the pandemic, it’s brought about more opportunities for cyber criminals to defraud people. Joining us to talk about cyber security is Jas Dhillon of Coast Capital Savings.
What is behind this increase in cyber crime right now?
Well there’s a couple of reasons that really led to this increase right now, and the first one is we are now using email as a form of communication more than ever before. So think about how you communicate with your kids’ schools, your employer, even your financial advisor at your bank or credit union. The second reason is a lot of us are now working from home. There’s this huge network of people that now have virtual work stations, which leads to increased risk of fraud. We know that cyber criminals really prey on the vulnerable, and right now with COVID-19 there’s increased anxiety, people are more vulnerable due to the social isolation and unfortunately cyber criminals are really preying on the vulnerable right now.
October is actually Cyber Security Awareness Month and a key message is how to be aware of fraud–so what should people be watching out for?
Well right now there is a lot of fraud that seems to be themed around COVID-19. You still need to watch out for all of those emails and text messages and phone calls that you might receive. So if you are receiving unsolicited email–and that is the key word: unsolicited–offering you medical treatment or home-testing, or maybe even private loans, you really need to make sure you’re being super diligent before you reply to an email or click on a link or a text message, or give out personal information to somebody that you don’t know on the other end.
Has there also been a spike in fraud related to people taking advantage of those government COVID-19 relief benefits?
There is, and unfortunately if you have applied for relief or have received relief, there has been some target email from fraudsters. What they’re trying to do is send you an email with a link which would then, if you click on it, install Ransomware. I also want to note you really want to ensure that you are protecting your Social Insurance Number and your birthdate because the last thing you want is somebody applying for any relief under your name.
Any other key pieces of advice on how people can protect themselves against cyber criminals?
First thing I say is always use critical thinking. Make sure before you reply or give information you know who’s on the other end of the phone, and your bank, your credit union, your credit card company, or federal agency is never going to ask you for any personal information over the phone. So don’t click on links, do your research ahead of time, go to the official website, call the number back, and the most important thing is make sure you have anti-virus software installed on your laptops and personal computers at home.