Cyber criminals are advancing in their phishing scams by using various tactics to trick victims into believing that a scam is legitimate. A common tactic used is impersonating a government or law enforcement agency. Cyber criminals impersonate these agencies to trick people into offering personal information or money. Cyber criminals often use a phone call, email or text message to connect with their victims and use company or personal information (found on company websites or personal social platforms) to make the contact seem trustworthy. It is important to spot the signs of these crafty phishing scams and how you can best protect yourself from losing personal information or money.
Spot the signs
There are many signs that can help you identify a message from a cybercriminal posing as a government or law enforcement agency. In the signs to look out for, cyber criminals can:
- use of urgent or threatening language (threats stating there is a warrant out for your arrest)
- demand immediate payment (to cancel a warrant out for your arrest)
- offer refunds, credits or rebates (for tax returns)
- request personal and financial information or that you click on a link (for a refund or credit)
These signs are usually presented or followed with a request for personal information, a money transfer, or to click on a link or attachment. A government or law enforcement agency will never use messaging or email to request sensitive information.
How to protect yourself
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from these cyber criminals impersonating agencies. Protect your personal information and money by:
- keeping your personal information off social networks and other platforms (your address or mother’s maiden name used as a security question for accounts)
- using unique, strong passwords or passphrases for each account
- enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all accounts when possible
- logging into your account through the agency’s official website from your browser (never clicking on a link provided by message or email)
- hanging up the phone or deleting messages or emails you suspect are cyber criminals
- reporting any suspicious requests impersonating government and law enforcement agencies to your local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) through the online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501
If you are concerned a suspicious connection could potentially be legitimate, contact the agency directly to question the request. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website and the Service Canada website have further details and examples on different tactics being used to help victims recognize these scams.
Cyber criminals impersonating government and law enforcement agencies can appear legitimate but taking the step to verify a request can save your personal and financial information. Cyber criminals are continuously advancing in their phishing scams, so it is important to always be vigilant and get cyber safe.