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Beware of phishing scams offering packages, refunds, or rebates

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Phishing scams have been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic and now scammers are changing their tactics to get people to click on links that they shouldn’t.

“Phishing has unfortunately gotten worse," Greg Young, vice president of cybersecurity with Trend Micro, an international cybersecurity firm, told CTV News Toronto.

While some scammers will still use threats and intimidation to get people to answer emails, click on links, or return phone calls, there is also a trend toward more positive messaging to catch people off guard.

“It could be the happy news of a Costco rebate or a DHL delivery. These are ways to try and get a foot in the door to get someone clicking on a link to take steps toward s a subsequent compromise," Young said.

“I would have been furious because it looked legitimate, it really looked like it came from Canada Post," said Sheila Girvan of Etobicoke.

Girvan got an email saying Canada Post had tried to deliver a parcel to her, but that they were unsuccessful. It said to click on a link for more information, but Girvan became suspicious and called Canada Post and they said it was a scam.

“There go those scammers again (trying to fool people) in different ways with telephone calls, texts and emails. There are a lot of bad people out there,” said Girvan.

CTV News Toronto has heard from viewers who received fake texts regarding a cash back rebate from Costco which turned out to be fraudulent. There was also a text from someone claiming to be a lottery winner who wanted to hand out cash to random Canadians.

There have also been fake phones calls and in one the recorded message said, “I'd like to congratulate you on a $1,000 rebate."

There have also been fake emails from scammers claiming to be with Public Health Ontario that claimed people who are vaccinated can get $100 from the government along with other fraudulent emails about UPS deliveries, Amazon accounts and Netflix passwords.

Young said you should never click on a link that is suspicious or that you're not expecting, but he says if you do, don't panic, but don't click on anything else or respond further.

"If you are expecting something that is one thing, but if you are not excepting something it could be too good to be true. So stop and take a pause before you take action," said Young.

Canadians lost $38 million to phishing scams in 2021 where criminals claimed to be with the government or legitimate businesses according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

As tax times approaches, be careful if you receive scam texts or emails that might look like they're from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). There may be promises of a refund or money related to pandemic programs, but be cautious as it's likely a scam. If you are in doubt, contact the CRA directly.  

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