Your account has been closed! (and other messages to simply ignore)

You may have noticed that the fraudsters who frolic on the internet have been getting much better at tricking even savvy users.  One such display of their skills has been to fool email users that they are getting a serious email – one that demands immediate reply – from their bank.  Or their credit card company. Or the CRA. Or….well, the list keeps growing.

“So what’s new?” you might ask. “I’ve been getting shyster emails from the dark side since I’ve had email, and I’m on to them.  No worries.”

Well, I wish it were so.  The difference over the past while has been in the sophistication the crooks use to garner your attention.  In the past you would receive an email from your ‘bank’, but the subject line would give it away as not being from your bank at all.  The crooksters weren’t very good with language, period.  They would put something in the subject line like, “Call you Bank – account be closed!!!!”  You would smile since you had just been to your bank, all was working well, and the note came in several hours before your bank visit.  You would cringe to think someone believing himself to be a sophisticate would send an email with poor grammar, one ending in four exclamation marks.

Lately, many of the up and coming young fraudsters have taken classes in the language they want to use.  Their subject lines have become better, more believable.  What is most troublesome is they have gotten very good at having you believe their note really is from your bank, the RCMP or the Canada Revenue Agency.  They replicate a bank’s web site page, or use a very close approximation.  If you’re not careful, and are in a rush, you may just click on “your account” to “fix” the glitch your “bank” has been so eager to bring to your attention.  And then it’s over.  Money starts seeping out of your account, and your data is compromised.

The best way to avoid falling for the scenario above is to develop a rather cantankerous attitude towards everything ‘web’.  Don’t feel compelled to be kind to a stranger.  If your bank is sending you an update, don’t feel the need to respond right away.  If anything – and I mean anything – is sent to you that a curious, or even half-suspicious, mind might in any way think is not absolutely kosher, trash it.  Even if it is an email threatening a tax bill.  Even if it is from your bank warning you your account’s about to be shut down.  Even if it is your mother claiming that if you do not click on her birthday card RIGHT NOW, she will disown you.  Better to have the taxman, your banker and your mom mad at you than find yourself without funds or a business to fall back on.


Nathan Mean completed his undergrad and law degrees at Dalhousie University. He loves to help CFIB counsellors ensure small businesses succeed in his role as Director, Business Resources at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Over the course of his 16 years at CFIB, Nathan has helped hundreds of members overcome unfathomable regulations and government-imposed expenses, solve issues that relate to day-to-day operations and, most recently, hosted webinars for CFIB members and the small business community on important business issues.

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