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Charla Huber: ‘Tis the season for phishing emails

If it sounds too good to be true, something doesn’t seem right, or if it just seems out of the ordinary, don’t click the button
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Phishing is the most common form of cybercrime, with more than three billion spam emails sent daily, writes Charla Huber. Hundreds of millions of emails are filtered into spam folders, but that means more phishing emails end up in inboxes than not. VIA CREATIVE COMMONS

This is the time of year that we focus on sharing our love with friends and family, and offering acts of service, kindness and generosity to others.

Every year around this time, I get excited. I enjoy the winter holidays and celebrate Christmas with friends and family, but my excitement for the last half of December is for little-to-no pressure to answer business emails, book meetings and work to deadline, because deadlines are pushed to January.

December is the only time of year when everyone shifts their expectations for replies, and that includes my own expectations for others.

Even with all the kindness and camaraderie, this is also the time of year when opportunists attempt to take advantage of others.

We know the usual advice about not leaving gifts in your car, the dangers of porch pirates, and being aware of good-old fashioned pickpockets, if that’s even a thing.

But the most lucrative scam when it comes to cost versus effort is phishing. (I have no scientific data on this — it’s merely my assumption). They send out thousands of emails and hope a few people click on the link, resulting in some stolen funds or info.

Phishing is the most common form of cybercrime, with more than three billion spam emails sent daily. Hundreds of millions of emails are filtered into spam folders, but that means more phishing emails end up in inboxes than not.

Interestingly, tech-savvy millennials and Gen Zs are more likely to fall victim to phishing scams than boomers and Gen Xers.

I still remember the first phishing email I nearly fell victim to. My daughter was about five years old, and I had just bought her an iPad mini.

A week or two after the purchase, I received an email from “Apple” saying an animated children’s film had been purchased on my account, with a receipt attached. At the bottom, it said: “If you didn’t make these charges, please click the button.”

I almost clicked and entered my info, worried about this unwanted charge, as money was tight at the time.

I had just bought my daughter a device that was connected to my Apple account, and the receipt mentioned a children’s cartoon. I was the prime target for this scam.

If you received the email and didn’t have a small child in your home, you would immediately delete it knowing it was a scam — the same way if I get an email from someone claiming to be my grandchild, or from a bank that I don’t even have an account with, I know it’s not for me.

If I get an email that looks legitimate from the bank that I am a customer of, I will take a closer look.

It’s sad that we have to be on guard at all times. It’s awful that there are people who build their careers taking advantage of people and scamming them out of their hard-earned money.

This month, I’ve already seen an increase in emails from stores and businesses in my inbox, some that I am a customer of and others I’m not and have never heard of. Many are phishing emails.

If it sounds too good to be true, something doesn’t seem right, or if it just seems out of the ordinary, don’t click the button, respond or share any information.

No matter how beefed-up online security gets, the “bad actors” add more complexity to their scams.

It’s an endless cycle.

Stay safe.

Charla Huber is an Indigenous communications consultant based in the capital region. Her family is from Beausoleil First Nation and Fort Chipewyan.

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