3 telltale signs of a phishing email

71% of phishing attacks use the name and colours of a financial institution to obtain personal information.

Logos, signatures and security features are easy to forge. That's why you'll need to pay close attention to the message itself to detect fraud.

Here are 3 telltale signs of a phishing scam. While they're all a bit different, they have one thing in common: they're always unexpected and unsolicited.

1. They give a sense of urgency
Why? The goal of scam artists is to get you to act fast without thinking, by giving a sense of urgency and emphasizing the consequences if you don't.

Common scenarios:
  • You're asked to update your personal information; if you don't, your account will be frozen or closed.
  • Your financial institution informs you that your account could be compromised and asks you to click on a link to log in and change your password.
  • You're notified that there has been fraudulent activity in your account and that if you don't confirm your credit card or account details, you'll be held liable.
2. They promise a financial gain
Ah! The lure of money! The goal here is to make you believe you've won a prize or are receiving a perk of some kind, even though you didn't ask for it or enter any contests. Scam artists will often appeal to your desire for financial gain to get you to divulge personal information.

Common scenarios:
  • You receive an email prompting you to click on a link to claim a sudden windfall from someone you don't know.
  • You get a congratulatory email saying you've won an official contest you didn't enter. To receive the prize, you need to click on a link to log in.
  • You receive a notice from Interac saying that your financial institution had overcharged you for service fees. It has reimbursed you and you'll need to follow a certain procedure to have the money deposited to your account.
3. They tell you there's a problem
You should be suspicious of any email asking you to disclose personal information to resolve an issue.

Common scenarios:
  • Your financial institution contacts you to notify you of problems with its online banking site. To resolve the problem, it asks you to click on a link, log in and confirm by email if you're able to access the site.
  • Someone has broken into your computer.
  • An accounting error was made on your account and was corrected. The email includes a link connecting you to your online banking site.
These emails are always unexpected and unsolicited and ask you to click on a link to confirm your personal information.

Be suspicious if you receive an email asking for your personal information or redirecting you to a transactional site.

The best way to protect yourself is to stay alert to possible scams. Don't be deceived by appearances--pay attention to the content of the email. If in doubt, don't reply!

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