This summer, federal and provincial law enforcement agencies warned the public about a rise in instances of the “grandparent scam.” Fraudsters use emails, texts and phone calls to try to convince seniors that their grandchildren have been charged with offences and need immediate payment for bail or to cover fines.
Earlier this year, there were reports of an increase in the “Canada Post scam,” where a text, presumably from the mail carrier, asks people to provide banking information to cover a delivery charge.
As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, the number of potential Canadian targets keeps rising. A new survey from RBC reveals the following:
- 88 per cent of Canadians say they have noticed an increase in attempts at fraudulent activity.
- 73 per cent say they were knowingly targeted.
- 57 per cent say they have received notifications that their personal information was exposed in a data breach, an increase from 20 per cent in 2022.
Canadians are becoming more accustomed to the tactics used by cybercriminals, But there’s still room to improve how they protect themselves, and respond to possible breaches. The RBC survey found that 68 per cent do not know what actions to take if personal data is compromised. With would-be fraudsters continually honing their techniques, education and preparedness become even more urgent.
“As Canadians become more aware of the common tools and methods that cybercriminals are using, it’s also forcing cybercriminals to up their game,” says Adam Evans, chief information security officer at RBC.
He points out a few simple changes around online protection can make a big difference.
Start with passwords
The survey reveals that 82 per cent of Canadians are worried about unauthorized access to their online accounts or personal information, and 78 per cent are concerned about having their email or social-media accounts hacked.
Given that the average person has 100 to 150 passwords, protecting these accounts can be tough and makes keeping track of them arduous. This leads many people to use the same password repeatedly – a big no-no in cyber hygiene.
Free online tools can help. Password managers create strong options, and they will alert you to a breach, Mr. Evans says. “In the event of a compromise, you can understand where it [the password] had been used, rapidly change the credential, and lock the attacker out of the accounts from that point forward.”
Spot the bad actors
When asked about cybersecurity concerns in the RBC survey, 76 per cent of Canadians mentioned identity theft and 72 per cent said being the victim of an online scam. The vast majority of Canadians (87 per cent) say they feel they can distinguish between fraudulent and legitimate communication, but it’s often hard to tell the difference.
Sometimes there are clues, such as poor grammar, spelling mistakes or unusual language. Other times, protection comes down to trusting your instincts. The survey found that most Canadians never open unexpected attachments, they hit pause before replying, and they agree that if it feels wrong it likely is.
“As Canadians, we benefit greatly from our digitally connected lives. However, this comes at a cost,” says Sami Khoury, head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. That cost is the threat of cybercrime, and he says organizations and individuals alike need to take it seriously.
Last year, the centre had to issue a caution to the public when it learned of a phone scam involving people impersonating its own officials.
Be aware of resources
Organizations may have more resources to deploy for their defences, but individual Canadians don’t have to become cybersecurity specialists on their own. There is a wealth of online support to help with protection, including the Centre for Cyber Security, the RBC Cyber Security Centre and RBC’s Be Cyber Aware site.
“We’ve created a lot of educational content for citizens who want to understand how this works and what they can do to protect themselves,” Mr. Evans says.
Resources to help stay on top of the latest best practices are especially valuable given how quickly cyber threats and security measures are evolving. Everyone benefits by becoming savvier.
The RBC survey shows that those who grew up in an online world (ages 18 to 34) are less concerned about cybersecurity compared with older Canadians. That underscores how all generations could use a boost in their cybersecurity preparedness.
Among the basic steps for all: run security software and ensure you’re only accessing your accounts using networks you know and trust.
In the event of a breach, notify contacts that an account was hacked and ask them to keep an eye out for spam messages that look like you sent them. With active targeting, it’s also prudent to report a breach to local law enforcement and to your financial institutions.
“If we don’t know about the trends in attacks and the kinds of things that consumers are seeing, it makes it difficult for us to build products that help protect them,” Mr. Evans says. “There’s a lot we can do as organizations to protect the interactions between us and our consumers. But the consumer also has a responsibility to make sure they stay protected.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with RBC. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.