Yukoners are increasingly falling prey to online scams.
“You just feel so exposed and vulnerable,” said Ione Christensen, a former senator and Whitehorse mayor.
This summer, Christensen received a call from a man claiming to be from Microsoft. He said her computer had problems and offered to fix them if she bought a $200 program.
She had received similar calls before, but had never given the callers access to her computer. This time, it was different.
The caller said they were calling because Christensen had renewed her contract, which she had.
She was on the phone for over an hour, and even though she repeatedly told the caller she thought it was a scam, she eventually gave the caller her credit card number.
Christensen was told it would take the company a few hours to fix her computer. After she got off the phone, she realized the call was a scam. She unplugged her computer and called local police who directed her to Ottawa. She also cancelled her credit cards immediately, so she never had to pay for the product.
This Microsoft scam has been around for over a year, said Chris May, owner of Whitehorse’s Mid Arctic Technology Services. His company has seen a growing number of clients becoming victims of online fraud. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported $64.2 million was lost in mass-market fraud last year.
Earlier this summer, the Whitehorse RCMP warned Yukoners to be on alert for pop-up messages claiming their computers have been associated with child pornography. The messages claim to be from the RCMP or CSIS.
The RCMP offers these tips to protect yourself: 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 emails sent to you by someone you don’t know. Turn on your browser’s pop-up blocking feature. And never download anti-virus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an email.
Mid Arctic is offering free seminars to teach people how to protect themselves from fraud. “It’s about knowledge,” said May.
“People are sitting in their home, and they feel safe. They’re sitting at their workplace where they sit every day, and they feel safe. But the Internet is outside of that environment,” he said.
The seminars help people recognize common patterns in online crime, and offers tools to help people recognize and prevent fraud. It’s important to use reputable websites, and know that institutions, like banks, will never include links to their sites in emails, said May.
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