By Rev. Marty Levesque
Recently, there has been a barrage of phishing emails sent across the diocese.
A Phishing email is made to impersonate someone; in our case it is often the parish priest. The email then asks for help or a favour. The unsuspecting recipient responds, and then will be asked to purchase Google Play or iTunes cards. This is just one of many scams that are used to prey upon people.
I wrote on this phenomenon before, but with the recent deluge of scam emails, I thought it best to update this piece as there are a variety of ways to protect yourself from falling victim to such scams. Here are a few tips to help protect yourself:
1. Never send money to someone you have never met face-to-face. And don't do it if it's someone you know asking you to use a wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, or a gift card like iTunes or Google Play (those cannot be traced and are as good as cash). Pick up the phone and call the person to verify it is them.
2. Don't click on links or open attachments in an unsolicited email. Links can download malware onto your computer and/or steal your identity. Recently, a major pipeline operator in the US fell victim to this type of ransomware (malware blocks access to your computer until you pay a ransom to have access restored)
3. Scammers are great at mimicking official websites, fonts, and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean that it is. Even Caller ID can be faked. Always contact the company directly by opening a new browser window, or by calling and speaking to someone at the organization.
4. Never share personal information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, even at your front door. Best practice is to thank them, and call the company back to verify the call was legitimate.
5. Always check the email address or URL to see it is legitimate. Case in point, the recent email sent to parishioners at All Saints’ Waterloo was not from a diohuron.org address, that is used by all clergy in the diocese, but was from “Marty Levesque <email@example.com>”. This was an attempt to impersonate me and prey on the generosity of the people at All Saints’.
The World Wide Web, much like the world itself, is a wonderful place full of interesting information and great people. But much like a market in a tourist centre, where the best deal is available only to you and pickpockets lurk around the corner, we need to take a few steps to protect ourselves and each other.
Rev. Marty Levesque is the diocesan social media officer and rector of All Saints’ in Waterloo. firstname.lastname@example.org