spamMembers of the Ontario Provincial Police remind everyone to be aware of the email scams criminals use to commit identity theft and other crimes. Phishing is any e-mail falsely claiming to be from an established legitimate organization such as a financial institution, business or government agency. The e-mail may request or direct the consumer to visit a certain website to update or provide personal and/or financial information and passwords. It is really a malicious attempt to collect customer information for the purpose of committing fraud. Ransomware produces what has been called a "Police Trojan" or "scareware" because a notice pops up that appears to come from a law enforcement agency. The message is a false accusation of illegal online activities and then demands that the consumer needs to pay a fee via money transfer or credit card to unlock the computer. When the victim submits their payment details, the criminals then steal and use the victim's personal information.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 5,179 'phishing' complaints in 2015, identified 1,704 people as victims who lost more than $508,000. In 2015, the CAFC received 295 complaints from Canadian consumers who received a ransomware pop‐up message. Of those, 135 victims were identified as having lost a total of more than $47,000.00 – roughly $348 per victim.

To recognize and avoid phishing:

Protect your computer with anti-virus software, spyware filters, email filters and firewall programs. Contact the named financial institution immediately and report your suspicions. Do not reply to any email that requests your personal information.Look for misspelled words. Always report phishing or 'spoofed' emails.

Signs that you may have encountered ransomware:

A pop‐up message or banner with a ransom request. A user cannot usually access anything on the computer beyond the screen.Sending money outside of the traditional or mainstream banking system. Sending money to "unlock" a computer.

Tips to protect yourself from ransomware:

Never click on a pop-up that claims your computer has a virus.Update your anti-virus software often and scan your computer for viruses regularly. Don't click on links or attachments in e-mails sent to you by someone you don't know. Turn on your browser's pop-up blocking feature. Never download anti-virus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an e-mail.

During October's Cyber Safety Awareness Month, the OPP, other police services and international partners are promoting public awareness to help prevent all Canadians from becoming victims. If you suspect you've been a victim of phishing or ransomware, contact your local police service or the official entity that the ransomware appears to be from, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, report it to the OPP online at or through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) at

For helpful tips and links, follow the OPP on Twitter (@OPP_News), Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtags #CyberSecurity, #CyberAware and #OPPTips.

FAST FACTS (Courtesy: Get Cyber Safe)

156-million phishing emails are sent every day.

16-million make it through filters.

8-million are opened.

800,000 links are clicked.

80,000 people fall for a scam every day and share their personal information, thereby creating 30-million potential victims every year.

source: media release, Grey County OPP