Email scam, new to the NWT, pilfers pay cheque

Fraudsters used method not previously seen in territory: RCMP

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A new, sophisticated online scam that left a Northern News Services manager out of a paycheck is another example of the ever-evolving tricks used by fraudsters to steal Canadians’ hard-earned cash, say NWT RCMP.

Northern News Services’ managing editor Mike Bryant was the victim of an email scam last week where a culprit impersonating him by email requested a change to his direct deposit information.

“Scammers are using different methods to lure their victims, and new methods are being invented daily,” stated RCMP spokesperson Julie Plourde in an email to Yellowknifer.

On Nov. 25, a member of NNSL’s accounting department received an email from someone posing as managing editor Mike Bryant.

The scammer, using Bryant’s name but under a different email address – ending in “@msg-text.com” – stated he had switched banks and wished to have his pay cheques directly deposited into a new account.

The next day, the scammer provided the direct deposit information, including the name of the bank, the account number, institution number and transit number.

The email ended with the fraudster signing off under Bryant’s name.

Read NNSL Media managing editor Mike Bryant’s response

The staff member who received the initial email complied with what was believed to be a legitimate request from a co-worker.

On Nov. 30, Bryant realized he was the victim of a scam when he checked his bank account: his monthly pay cheque wasn’t there.

While the method used to pilfer his pay cheque shares similarities with other fraud techniques reported in the territory – where scammers attempt to obtain banking information from potential victims – the recent email scam is a new one for NWT RCMP.

“We have not encountered this specific type of fraud in the NWT,” Plourde told Yellowknifer.

Of all fraud complaints reported to the RCMP’s financial crimes unit this year, a computer was used to commit 13 of the offences, according to Plourde.

While fraudsters have been known to take aim at seniors and non-tech-savvy people, “different groups can be targeted,” she stated.

Plourde added not all scams are reported to police, while other complaints are filed directly with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

“This incident certainly is timely to reinforce (fraud prevention tips),” stated Plourde.

NWT RCMP urges residents to be weary of scammers impersonating legitimate companies by email.

“Beware of emails requesting login credentials, personal or financial information to rectify ‘urgent problems,’” wrote Plourde.

“Since the email looks like it is from a known business, victims have a false sense of security and end up providing their information to scammers,” continued Plourde.

Bryant, who has filed a report with RCMP, is working to recoup the stolen money.

The scammers never did have access to the money because the bank had placed a four-day hold on the deposit as the name on the cheque didn’t match the name on the account.

As of press time, Northern News Services is still waiting to hear back from police to open an investigation.

The scheme comes on the heels of a ransomware attack that crippled the Government of Nunavut’s computer systems early last month.

It’s believed the computer virus spread after a government employee opened an email link or an online ad.

Here’s some general fraud prevention tips from NWT RCMP:

  • Beware of unsolicited emails from individuals or organizations.
  • Do not reply to any email that requests your personal information.
  • Look out for paid advertisements online. Paid banner ads are not always affiliated with the website you’re on.
  • Review your credit card statements regularly for unauthorized charges.
  • Remember: government agencies will not ask you to purchase gift cards as a form of payment.

To report fraud or scams, contact your local RCMP detachment or call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

Visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre for more information and fraud prevention tips: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/protectyourself-protegezvous/index-eng.htm

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