Calgarians have lost about $1.2 million since the beginning of the year to phishing scams and police are warning citizens to take precautions to protect personal information online.

Calgary police say they have received a number of calls from concerned citizens over that last few weeks who say they have been contacted by scammers demanding money.

Investigators say the offenders email the victims and tell them that they have been recorded accessing a 'questionable' website. The offenders then threaten to publicize the information if the victim does not provide payment, typically through bitcoin. The scammers also claim to have the victims' login credentials to make the threat more believable.

Police say the offenders likely obtained the victims' credentials from other, unrelated data breaches where their password was compromised and that the scammers never actually gained access to the victims' computers.

People often use the same password for multiple accounts and use the same password for years, which can make them vulnerable to online scams.

Cybercrime investigators are reminding people to take precautions to protect their online accounts including;

  • Be suspicious of unexpected and unusual emails, especially ones demanding some form of urgent action. Never click links, send money or respond until you have confirmed the email to be legitimate through a second source.
  • Know how to recognize phishing emails.
  • Check who sent the email. Be suspicious of emails sent from people you don't communicate with regularly and look for spelling mistakes or extra letters, numbers and symbols in the sender's email address.
  • Check for bad grammar and spelling mistakes in the body of the email. 
  • Check hyperlinks by hovering your mouse over a link to check its true destination. Never open attachments or click on links until you've verified it is a legitimate email. 
  • Check the date and time the email was sent. Phishing emails are often sent at times you wouldn't normally receive emails. 
  • Change passwords regularly and after an account has been compromised by a data breach.
  • Check if your email addresses and online account information has been compromised in a previous data breach through the website

Calgary police say Calgarians have been bilked out of over $1.2 million so far this year in phishing scams and that 75 per cent of that is from fake employment offers and the diversion of funds from corporate payroll and financial accounts.

Police say those who reported the phishing scams spotted a problem and did not lose any cash to scammers in this instance but that scams like this are often underreported.

To report online crime to Calgary Police, click HERE.