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How to protect yourself from online fraud

March is Fraud Prevention Month

Many of us spend more of our lives online than ever before—and with that shift comes an increase in the potential for online fraud. March is Fraud Prevention Month, and as a digital university, it’s important for us to give you information you can use to protect yourself in the online world.

Last year saw record-breaking fraud-related financial losses for Canadian individuals and organizations. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there was $379 million lost to scams and fraud in 2021, which is an increase of 130 per cent from 2020.

For this year’s Fraud Prevention Month, the focus is impersonation scams. Is someone asking you for your social insurance number (SIN)? Maybe someone is pretending to be from AU and they just need your AU account password to fix something in your account?

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly has shifted more of our lives online, and so too are fraudsters looking to impersonate trusted sources to scam us out of money or personal information.

What is fraud?

Fraud is typically understood as an attempt to deceive someone for monetary gain or personal information but takes many different forms. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre provides up-to-date information on the types of scams and frauds that are most reported in Canada.

For you as a student or team member of AU, you may be the focus of a scammer attempting to gain access to AU’s systems.

“The digital age we operate in today is inundated with data breaches and other online threats,” AU security awareness analyst Cleo Mushonga said. “Being part of the digital world means AU and its community can be targets of cyber crime.” 

“The digital age we operate in today is inundated with data breaches and other online threats. Being part of the digital world means AU and its community can be targets of cybercrime.”

– Cleo Mushonga, AU security awareness analyst

Phishing is a type of fraud

Phishing is one of the easiest ways for fraudsters to try to steal your AU credentials, personal information (like a SIN), or to get into AU’s systems.

It could be a mass email campaign that appears to be from recognized institutions, like AU or another government agency, and could include:

  • a claim that you need to update your account,
  • malicious links or attachments, and/or
  • appear to be a receipt from a purchase or another official document.

Your computer could be infected with malware if you click the link or open the attachment.

How to protect yourself from phishing

One of the most effective fraud-prevention measures is recognizing and preventing phishing attempts—fraudulent attempts to get sensitive information like usernames and passwords. Below are some tips to protect yourself.

  • Beware of text messages and emails from individuals or organizations asking you to click on a link or open an attachment. Don’t click anything. Block and delete.
  • Be wary if you’re seeing spelling mistakes in emails or text messages.
  • Verify the hyperlink by hovering your cursor over the link or button.
  • Set up multifactor authentication for all online accounts and change your passwords frequently. Help with your AU login information is on the technical support site.

Learn more about phishing, as well as how to create a strong password.

“Over the last year, Canadians have experienced substantial financial losses due to the increase in online presence. This year, we are focusing our fraud prevention efforts towards our students by collaborating with the Alberta Securities Commission to bring independent and timely information to the AU community.”

– Vivianna Botticelli, chief internal auditor at AU

Crypto fraud

Cryptocurrency is basically digital money. Using computer algorithms or blockchain technology, there is no single organization managing the currency. Each person participates in managing the money and its movement.

Fraudsters are attracted to new and emerging markets, so cryptocurrency represents a new online scamming opportunity for them.

Some examples of the type of crypto fraud include pretending to be a friend or family member to offer you an exciting, limited time crypto investment opportunity. Another favourite is a deceptive social or digital advertisement connected to a fake trading platform.

Fitting within the impersonation theme of this year’s Fraud Prevention Month, these fraudster are specifically targeting students.

How to protect yourself against crypto fraud

The first thing you can do to protect yourself is to understand the red flags before investing. Watch out for limited time offers and investment opportunities that sound too good to be true. If you get a suspicious message from a friend or family member, try to connect with them through a different type of communication to determine if the investment opportunity was really from them.

Join the fraud prevention webinar

To help AU students learn more about protecting themselves again crypto and other types of investment fraud, AU’s Chief Internal Auditor Vivianna Botticelli will be hosting a fraud prevention webinar later this month with Alberta Securities Commission and co-hosted by Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association and Athabasca University Students’ Union.

For more information on Fraud Prevention Month, follow the #FPM2022 hashtag on social media or visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

  • March 9, 2022