School of phish

The beginning of a new academic year is as thrilling for returning students as it is for new students. As you memorize your course outline and map out the quickest route to your classes, it’s equally important to get familiar with one of the most common cyber scams in Canada: phishing. This blog post explores the latest phishing scams and trends, and how to prevent them from happening to you.

Phishing 101

College and university campuses are hip and trendy places where you can often find the latest food crazes and inspiring fashion trends. But just like trends evolve, cyber criminals are also getting more sophisticated with the tactics they use to trick their targets.

One of the most common cyber threats you are likely to encounter is phishing. Phishing is a cyber criminal’s attempt to obtain sensitive information by pretending to be a legitimate sender like your school or your professor. If you have a phone number, email address, use social media or browse the internet, chances are that you have already received a phishing message.

Phishing trends

Phishing can take many forms. Remember, a cyber criminal’s main goal is to steal your information. Some of the most common forms of phishing include, smishing (phishing by text) and spear phishing (a hyper targeted phishing message). But a growing trend in phishing is when cyber criminals exploit major events that affect a large number of people at once.

A recent example of this trend was with the Rogers service outage that happened in early July affecting millions of Canadian customers, including businesses. Once service was restored, cyber criminals were quick to send phishing messages pretending to be from Rogers and offered refunds or other similar compensation for the inconveniences caused by the outage if the recipient clicked on a random link.

Increasingly, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) is observing frauds targeting Canadians aged 20-29 years. In 2021 alone, victims in this age range reported more than $11.4 million in losses. The three most prominent scams reported were cryptocurrency investments scams ($7 million in losses) , e-commerce scams ($1.1 million in losses) and job scams ($740,000 in losses).

If you believe a message is fraudulent, or if you suspect that you have fallen victim of a fraud or cybercrime, report to your local police and report it to the CAFC’s online reporting system, or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.

Knowledge is power

Just like you might be wondering which studying technique works best for you, you may also wonder how we might fall victim to scams like phishing. The truth is, even the savviest cyber security expert is at risk of falling for a phishing attack.

The best way to protect yourself is to arm yourself with knowledge and to be cautious anytime anyone asks you for personal information – no matter how legitimate the sender may appear to be. Try to limit what you share online and be cautious when adding a new friend on social media. The general rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


As you dive back into your academic routine, remember to keep your cyber safety in mind. Being aware of trending scams like phishing, means that your focus can remain on your studies and activities, instead of recovering from a cyber attack. Get Cyber Safe to fully enjoy your school year by checking out our Cyber Security Awareness Month resources.

For information on all types of scams, visit the CAFC’s website or follow them on socials (Twitter, @canantifraud and Facebook, Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre).

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