March is Fraud Prevention Month, and Kingston Police and Utilities Kingston are partnering to help spread fraud prevention tips to local residents and businesses.
“Malicious cyber actors are quick to take advantage of high-profile events, particularly those that cause worry and concern, as with the COVID-19 virus,” says Constable Ash Gutheinz, Media Relations Officer with Kingston Police.
As more people spend time online due to the pandemic, more scammers are targeting Canadians online, including through an increasing number of phishing attempts referencing COVID-19, according to a release from Utilities Kingston, dated Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Phishing is the act of sending mass emails that appear to be from a legitimate source, but contain malicious attachments or links.
In the release, Utilities Kingston shares the following tips to help you stay protected online:
Watch for malicious emails:
- Make sure the address or attachment is relevant to the content of the email.
- Make sure you know the sender of an email.
- Look for typos.
- Use anti-virus or anti-malware software on computers.
There may be malicious attachments:
- Make sure that the sender’s email address has a valid username and domain name.
- Be extra cautious if the email tone is urgent.
- If you were not expecting an attachment, verify with the sender.
Be aware of malicious websites:
- Make sure URLs are spelled correctly.
- Directly type the URL in the search bar instead of clicking a provided link.
- If you must click on a hyperlink, hover your mouse over the link to check if it directs to the right website.
Other types of scams over the phone, at the door, and on the Internet
As ever, utility customers are targets for scams at the door, over the phone and through the Internet, Utilities Kingston said in the release.
“When in doubt, don’t be afraid to shut the door, hang up the phone, delete the email or close your Internet connection. You can always call us to confirm the truth of any sales pitch or other claim,” says Jim Keech, President and CEO of Utilities Kingston.
Kingston Police receive and investigate numerous complaints regarding suspicious door-to-door salespeople, phone calls and emails for many promotions and services.
In addition to the above tips, Utilities Kingston shared the following ways to recognize, reject and report fraud.
- Malicious emails may be from an unknown sender, contain typos, or irrelevant attachments and web links, or portray a sense of urgency.
- Scammers claiming to be from your utility company may call and threaten to disconnect utility services unless immediate payment is made. Utilities Kingston does not collect payment over the phone. Their website lists ways to pay your utility bill.
- Utilities Kingston will never ask for personal financial or account information in an email, and do not place outbound calls from 1-800 numbers.
- Utilities Kingston employees and contractors carry identification and you should always ask to see it.
- In general, be extra cautious about any unsolicited calls, emails or mailings.
- Don’t be afraid to shut the door, hang up the phone, delete the email or close your Internet connection.
- Don’t open suspicious emails and attachments, and use anti-virus software on your computer. Hover over URLs before opening links.
- Don’t purchase a product or service without carefully checking out the product, service and company.
- Don’t disclose personal information about your finances, bank accounts, credit cards, utility bills, social insurance and driver’s licence numbers to any business that can’t prove it is legitimate.
- At the door, always make sure you get a business card and look at the salesperson’s ID badge first. Ask to see their City-issued licence to sell door-to-door in Kingston.
- Remember, you have the right to ask salespeople to leave your property.
- If someone comes to your door to sell restricted products and services, don’t be afraid to shut the door and call Consumer Protection Ontario at 1-800-889-9768.
- If you receive a suspicious phone call, email or visit at your door from someone claiming to represent Utilities Kingston, hang up and call Utilities Kingston to let them know. A customer service representative is available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 613-546-0000.
- If you’re in doubt about a communication received from Utilities Kingston, call to confirm it.
- If people refuse to leave your property or you become a victim of fraud through monetary loss, call Kingston Police at 613-549-4660.
- Report incidents to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. This agency collects information on fraud and works closely with police to solve these crimes.
Get involved with the conversation online by tweeting to @kingstonpolice and @utilitieskngstn using the hashtag #FPM2021.
Fraud Prevention Month is spearheaded by the Competition Bureau. Utilities Kingston says they sourced some of the above information from https://www.cyber.gc.ca/en/guidance/cyber-hygiene-covid-19