District of Houston file photo

District warns locals of online frauds

District has had to block email account

Another public sector agency has joined the call for people to be aware of the increasingly sophisticated measures online scammers are now employing to gain access to personal information and to commit fraud.

Earlier this month the Houston RCMP detachment issued a warning and now the District of Houston has done the same.

The District move follows emails allegedly sent out by one of its senior officials in which the recipient is urged to ‘click’ to receive a monetary pay out.

The scam attempt was quickly spotted and the District took action by blocking that email account.

“This issue was identified and referred to our IT services provider and cybersecurity insurance provider, who are working to identify the cause, extent, and nature of the breach,” said District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.

“A debriefing session will also be conducted internally to ensure that best practices for preventing this type of breach and others are implemented going forward.”

Other local governments in B.C. have also had their cyber services breached, including Whistler and Prince George, Pinchbeck added.

He said residents should know that the District will never send out an email asking people to ‘click’ on a link to pay any amount owing to the District.

“If there are amounts owing for taxes, programs, or services, we will always reach out first by written notification, and then by phone call asking people to attend our offices or speak with their financial institution to pay a bill,” he said.

Meanwhile, the District has released this advice in urging residents to exercise caution:

– confirm the identity of the sender before clicking on links or opening attachments by calling them.

– triple-check that you are paying the right person before sending any payments, and limit online transactions.

– Change passwords at least once every six to twelve months, and ensure that the passwords are somewhat complex and written down in a notebook (not stored online).

– generally treat anything that looks like spam as spam.

The District is also steering people toward a “how to” guide published by the federal government on dealing with different types of cybersecurity threats, and how to identify different types of scams such as phishing scams.

It is available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-safety-canada/campaigns/covid19.html.

Pinchbeck notes that this link is legitimate.

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