What is a phishing e-mail?
by Alona C. Mercado
Recently, a member of my staff messaged me on Microsoft Teams to say good morning and that she had just received my e-mail. She went on to say that she was about to respond directly to the e-mail, but she realized it was a phishing e-mail just in time. This set off a flurry of messages to my entire staff on Teams to warn them of this and to see if they had also received the same e-mail. We are a small organization – just myself, my law partner, our articling student and three legal assistants. Everyone except my partner and I received the phishing e-mail.
What is phishing? Wikipedia defines phishing as the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. It’s a scam and it can take the form of an e-mail sent out by individuals to try to fool people in one way or another. The e-mail my staff received was from “Alona C. Mercado” but the e-mail address was firstname.lastname@example.org. If you get an e-mail from this address, be careful – it’s not me. Delete it and report it to Gmail.
We do not know the purpose of this individual’s phishing expedition. But it was curious that the e-mail was sent to everyone except the two lawyers at the office. Could they have been trying to get access to our computer systems? Trying to plant a virus? Cause mischief? Access sensitive information? Who knows? I’m just glad my articling student caught it before replying to the e-mail. The rest of my staff deleted the e-mails immediately and emptied their trash.
Unfortunately, phishing e-mails are common and come in various forms. For example, I’ve received a number of these over the years from e-mails of people I know asking for financial support because they were supposedly stranded in a foreign country. Each time it was a fake. Each time I just deleted the e-mail. If you suspect you’ve received a phishing e-mail, do not reply to it. Delete it immediately and report it. I reported this incident to Gmail. I don’t know what, if anything they will do. At the very least, I hope they will cancel this e-mail account and look into who the owner of that account is.
Identity theft comes in many forms. We not only need to be careful of our physical identification documents, such as driver’s licenses and passports, but also our digital identities as well. With the very common use of social media and all forms of electronic communication, we must be vigilant that we protect our accounts and report it to the proper authorities when we come across any unauthorized use of our names or accounts. This is especially true for us now as we are all using many more forms of electronic communications to keep in touch with family and friends during this global pandemic.
On a different note, as we all prepare for our first virtual/Zoom/FaceTime/Skype Christmas parties with our families and friends, I know we all wish it could be different. I, like you, long for the day when we can all gather and celebrate together, mourn together, worship together, and just enjoy the simple wonders of life together. Unfortunately, this COVID pandemic has to be controlled first before we can safely do that again. However, I take comfort in the knowledge that the vaccines are being approved and mass produced. Distribution plans are being made and executed. And hopefully, by this time next year, we will once again be able to enjoy the holiday season with all our loved ones in person.
Kaunting tiis na lang. Sa awa ng Diyos, magsasama tayo muli. Until then, take care of yourselves and your family, and please do everything you can to stay safe.
Christmas might look different this year but there is nothing stopping us from making it as fun and as memorable as we possibly can. My sisters, cousins and I are doing just that. We are planning to deliver gifts and goodie bags in the morning and having a large zoom party with games, trivia and bingo (if we can figure out the logistics of it) with the whole extended family in the afternoon or evening. In one way or another, we can all still be with our loved ones this Christmas. We just need to be a little creative and let our imaginations roam.
I wish you all a Blessed & Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!
The content of this article is not intended as legal advice, but is for information purposes only. Should you require legal advice on a specific issue relating to the content of this article, please seek the services of a legal professional.
Atty. Alona C. Mercado is a partner at Mercado Trinh Law LLP. She was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1999. Her preferred areas of practice include wills and estates, real estate, business law and immigration law. She can be reached at email@example.com or (204) 594-3436. Website: www.mercadotrinhlaw.com.