Officials with a pair of local governments, Central Elgin and Elgin County, are warning residents of an uptick in scam emails posing as the municipalities, weeks after a "cyber security incident" downed the latter's website and email system.
In a joint statement, officials with Central Elgin and the county – which includes communities such as St. Thomas, Aylmer and Dutton – warned that "phishing email campaigns have been increasing in prevalence across the province and locally."
The phoney emails that have been “circulating in the community” appear to be from the county or municipality. It's a practice called phishing, in which scammers send emails appearing to be from a known organization to solicit personal or financial information from the recipient. The emails may also direct them to a link containing malicious software.
Dave Jasper, who lives in the Central Elgin village of Sparta, said he’s received around a dozen spam emails, some including confidential information previously exchanged between him and municipal staff, in the last two weeks.
“I got the first few (emails) a couple of weeks ago, and didn't really think a whole lot of it,” said Jasper. “Then recently, I had to log in because I wanted the print-out of my taxes, and when that happened, all of a sudden, I got inundated.”
Local government officials advise residents to be cautious when opening emails and attachments. They laid out several safety tips:
The warning comes as Elgin County continues to deal with technical disruptions that have left its website and email system down for weeks. The local government recently hired an external consultant following a “cyber security incident” and amid concerns of increasing spam emails to staff, an internal memo dated March 31, a copy of which was obtained by The Free Press, shows.
Both the website and email systems remained down this weekend.
Anyone who suspects fraudulent email activity can report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the federal organization that tracks and investigations fraud, identity theft and scams, at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press