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City warning residents of scam text message asking residents to pay speed camera fines

The City of Ottawa is warning people of a new scam asking residents to make payments for speed camera fines by text message.

The text message, which appears to have been sent to many residents, has a bold headline reading: “Ottawa Traffic Safety Bureau.”

The message goes on to say: “Our speed radar has identified your vehicle exceeding the authorized limit while going 42 km/h in a school zone.”

The message contains a link to a fake City of Ottawa webpage, where the user is asked to solve a Captcha security test before being informed of a $20.16 fine.

The website asks for personal information including, name, address, email and credit card details.

“I actually received this text message. It’s so far and wide,” said councillor Tim Tierney. “We only actually mail tickets based on the legislation to the plate owner’s home. We do not solicit any kind of request by text. I know it looks like us, but it’s not us.”

On Sunday, the City of Ottawa posted to social media warning that it will never contact residents via text messages to ask for payments.

Tierney notes that many community safety zones by schools have a posted limit of 40 km/h and that it is unlikely that an automated speed enforcement camera would register an infraction 2 km/h over the speed limit.

“The speed threshold is a larger number,” Tierney said.

“We’re not out there as a cash grab. It’s about safety and we’re getting the message out. I’m telling councillors, colleagues, the mayor, to use their social channels to push out the message that this text is just fakeness.”

Technology analyst, Cami Levy, says this style of cyber-attack is becoming more prevalent as opportunistic thieves look for more ways to target even the most tech-savvy individuals.

“These kinds of attacks are nothing new. We’ve seen variations of them for years. What’s different is that cybercriminals are adapting these attacks to particular local or regional conditions. So they know that Ottawa has recently instituted a traffic camera system. They know that citizens will be aware of it,” Levy said

“Unfortunately the victimology is as broad as you can imagine.”

Levy says in many cases, the point of the small payment is to gain access to your credit card or even your bank or other financial accounts. Once the information has been processed, criminals could potentially clean out your cash.

“If you receive a message like this, separate yourself from that interaction in that email or that text message or that direct message in social media and reach out to [the legitimate company] directly. Go to their website, go to a police station, call the city directly,” he says.

“Even if you receive a phone call that looks like it comes from a legitimate source remember, call display can be spoofed and often is.”

Residents who have received this scam text are asked to call the Ottawa Police Service immediately at 613-236-1222.

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