Don’t be Fooled: An April Fool’s Guide to Avoiding Online Scams

Vernon BoldickCybersecurity

Every so often we have a client ask us about an email they have received or something that comes across their computer that looks fishy. Trust your gut! If it looks off, it probably is. A sad reality of COVID-19 is that hackers and scammers have more time on their hands as well. Let’s take some time this April Fool’s week and see how to recognize online scams.  

Tip 1: Read 

One red flag that an email is a scam is spelling and grammar mistakes. Scammers send out countless scam emails, so they aren’t worried about grammar; to them it’s a numbers game.  

Tip 2: Recognition 

Do you know the person who is contacting you? Were you expecting an email from them? Check the email address and ask yourself, “does it look right?” 

Tip 3: Google  

If the email looks off, Google the senders name and email address. There are websites dedicated to reporting scammers. Chances are, whoever is trying to scam you has been reported to one of these databases. 

Tip 4: Don’t Pay 

Scammers will often ask you to pay them money up front under the guise of a missed invoice, CRA or ticket claim, etc. Don’t pay them. Authoritative entities like CRA, the police or RCMP will not email you to ask for payment. 

Tip 5: Hang Up 

If you receive a phone call from a scammer, don’t engage and hang up. Companies like Microsoft will not call you for payments, nor will the CRA, or RCMP. If the call advises that you owe money, and asks you to press 1 to be transferred, do not press 1. This often re-routes your phone to make outgoing calls, which can cost you money without you even knowing! 

Tip 6: Website Address  

You may be asked to go to an official looking website. However, check the address as well as the real site. For example, Microsoft.com/en-ca. Is Microsoft’s Canadian website. Scammers may put on something else to make it look official, so make sure you check! 

Tip 7: Credit Card 

Never give out your credit card online, unless you know with 100% certainty that it is safe to do so. If a window pops up and says your computer is being seized, do not interact with it. Simply click the “x” button and close that page. Never interact with pages you are not familiar with. 

Tip 8: Contact a Professional 

If the worst happens, and you are scammed, contact an IT professional you trust right away! 

The internet is a wonderful place and you should enjoy it. However, it is important to be aware and informed. To summarize, only interact with emails, websites and people who you know and trust online. Never give out your credit card unless you know you are safe to do so! Should you fall victim to a scam contact a trusted IT professional right away.