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OPP warns about scam emails that pose phishing and ransomware risk

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The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is reminding Canadians about the risks posed by scam emails including phishing and ransomware and is urging people to stay alert and report such emails to enable authorities to deal with such scams easily.

According to statistics provided by OPP courtesy Get Cyber Safe, as many as 156-million phishing emails are sent every day out of which 16-million make it through filters. Out of these 16-million, half (8 million) are opened by people and 800,000 links are clicked. As many as 80,000 people fall for some sort of online scam through these emails and end up sharing personal information and this means that as many as 30-million people end up being potential victims every year.

“Ransomware and phishing emails seek to elicit personal information and data needed to fuel further criminal activities. Together, we need to do all we can to convince victims to report phishing emails and ransomware incidents, which can reduce harm and victimization”, Deputy Commissioner Rick BARNUM, OPP Investigations and Organized Crime.

OPP explains that phishing is any e-mail falsely claiming to be from an established legitimate organization such as a financial institution, business or government agency. In almost all cases, such emails ask the user to click on link and visit a certain website to update or provide personal and/or financial information and passwords. This is a malicious attempt to collect customer information for the purpose of committing fraud.

Ransomware on the other hand produces what has been called a “Police Trojan” or “scareware” because a notice pops up that appears to come from a law enforcement agency. The message is a false accusation of illegal online activities and then demands that the consumer needs to pay a fee via money transfer or credit card to unlock the computer. When the victim submits their payment details, the criminals then steal and use the victim’s personal information.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 5,179 ‘phishing’ complaints in 2015, 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.

During October’s Cyber Safety Awareness Month, the OPP, other police services and international partners are promoting public awareness to help prevent all Canadians from becoming victims. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of phishing or ransomware, contact your local police service or the official entity that the ransomware appears to be from, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, report it to the OPP online at http://www.opp.ca/index.php?id=132 or through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) at https://www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm

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