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OPP, U.S. Secret Service probe 'Spear Phishing' fraud, prevent Canadian business from being scammed out of $600K

An Ontario Provincial Police crest is pictured on an officer's uniform. (Supplied) An Ontario Provincial Police crest is pictured on an officer's uniform. (Supplied)
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Ontario Provincial Police, working in conjunction with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and United States Secret Service, says law enforcement officials prevented a Canadian business from being defrauded out of more than $600,000 in connection with a “Spear Phishing” scam.

In a news release, the OPP said a member working with the CAFC was notified about a Canadian business that was the victim of a Spear Phishing fraud on Feb. 2, 2024.

The officer, police said, got in touch with Secret Service, which immediately contacted the U.S. financial institution involved. The transfer, which amounted to $615,820 in Canadian currency, was frozen before the money changed hands, police confirmed.

“As a result of the timely reporting to the CAFC, and the quick action of the members from each organization, the business is well positioned to recover the funds,” the news release read.

Details of the fraud were not released but in Spear Phishing scams, police said fraudsters typically send messages to a targeted business or individual's email account. The emails, police said, are often addressed to the accounts payable department.

“Fraudsters will create an email address similar to the targeted company's email address in order to appear as though the email is originating from a trusted source (a supplier or contractor). The fraudster will request an urgent payment to an alternate bank account for an invoice that is due,” the news release continued.

“Fraudsters will take their time to collect information, study the language on their intended targets, and look for important contacts, payments, and dates so they can send convincing emails from a seemingly trusted source.”

According to the OPP, Spear Phishing scams represented about $60 million in reported losses to the CAFC last year. Ontario victims, the OPP noted, reported losing over $21.3 million in 2023.

To prevent these types of frauds from occurring, officials advise employees to confirm that the email address they are responding to is legitimate. Business are also urged to restrict the amount of information publicly shared online, including on social media. 

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