Florian Lemphers is pretty sure NorthwesTel doesn’t have any offices in Russia.
So when the Whitehorse resident received an email Thursday, claiming to be from NorthwesTel and urging him to click the provided link and fill out information to prove his email account is still functioning, he took a second to think.
Lemphers approaches many things on the Internet with skepticism.
“It’s a wonderful place out there, but you just have to be careful,” he said. “There’s a lot of bad stuff out there and a lot of people that are out there just to do nasty things and rip people off. It’s really important to be prepared for that kind of stuff.”
And Lemphers is slightly more prepared than most people. He has a program that identifies the country of origin of every email he receives.
The suspicious email that arrived Thursday bore a Russian flag. It originated from the city of Volgodonsk, in eastern Russia.
The program also estimates the distances emails travel from their original server to his computer.
“It reads all the hidden data in the header of the email that you never see,” he said of the free application. “It was a big , red flag as soon as I saw the Russian flag there and that it was 7,400 miles to the server.”
The email itself was also suspicious, Lemphers added.
“The phrasing,” he said. “And I can’t imagine all (of NorthwesTel’s) email accounts somehow needed to be verified with passwords.”
His suspicions were correct.
NorthwesTel never issues warnings that unless you login, you’ll lose your email account, said spokesperson Emily Younker.
The email was a phishing scam, in which a fraudster tries to gain access to personal information, she added.
And this particular scam has now been blocked, thanks to Lemphers’ detective work.
Phishing scams affect NorthwesTel’s email services occasionally, said Younker. And while the company uses filters and firewalls, “every once in a while, one slips through,” she said.
Unfortunately, the company can’t block the phishing attempt until it shows up.
But with many of the company’s staff also being customers, these things usually get discovered fairly soon, Younker added.
But when in doubt, just call NorthwesTel, she said.
If the telco ever needs information from you, they will call, Younker said.
The company has created an email account specifically for customers to report any possible phishing attempts. It is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RCMP and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre also have avenues for phishing scams to be reported and blocked.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at