Fraud related to COVID-19 pandemic on the rise. Canadians have seen everything from phoney fundraisers and products to sham testing kits and door-to-door solicitations. The aim of these scams is either to get money, steal your personal information or install malware on your device.
Here’s how to avoid being scammed.
Prominent scams to be aware of
The most widely spread scam in Canada related to COVID-19 has to do with face masks.
Fraudsters have been claiming to be the Red Cross and sending text messages to Canadians offering free face masks. This message includes a link to a fake site that asks the site visitor to pay for shipping or to make a donation to the Red Cross.
Another scam making its way around Canada involves fake testing kits. Scammers are knocking on doors or posting online, claiming to sell COVID-19 testing kits. These criminals are preying on the fear and uncertainty people have in order to make a profit.
It’s important to understand that hospitals and designated testing facilities are the only places where you can get tested for COVID-19.
On March 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians about a text scam targeted at people looking to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Some Canadians have reported receiving texts that read: “Alert: The emergency response benefit of Canada relief fund. has sent you a deposit of $1375.50.” The benefit is real but the text messages are not.
Visit the Government of Canada website for more information and to apply.
Phishing emails have consistently been a concern. Now, there is a surge of new attacks related to COVID-19. Scammers are sending emails supposedly from the WHO or the Public Health Agency of Canada. In these emails, they include links that purport to give you updates on the pandemic.
These links are ploys to get you to provide personal information. If you want current updates, visit the federal government’s official website.
Fake products for sale
Scammers are aware of how desperate consumers are for certain products such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and cleaning supplies. There have been numerous reports of fake ads on Kijiji and other online shopping sites.
Many people have paid for products they never received. Now, more than ever, due diligence before shopping is crucial. Shop from reputable sites and avoid online marketplaces that require payment before you get the items.
You’ve read the stats: thousands of Canadians have been laid off, food bank usage has surged. These types of stats have pulled on people’s heartstrings. Those who haven’t been financially impacted by the pandemic feel a duty to help.
Criminals, hoping to profit from this altruism have created various fake fundraisers. The wording changes but the end goal is the same: to steal your money.
Sometimes these fake programs pretend to be used to help a family that lost a family member to the virus. Other times it might be to raise money for small businesses who would otherwise have to close permanently.
How to stay safe
There are lots of ways that you can protect yourself against COVID-19 scams.
First, make sure that you have up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software on your computer.
Never click on links that seem to be medical or government advisory emails. Government agencies are not sending out mass-emails or text campaigns. If you get a message or a call from an unfamiliar number, ignore it.
Ignore ads for cures or herbal remedies that claim to prevent coronavirus. Nothing like this exits. The only preventative measure is physical distancing and frequent hand washing.
When in doubt, look for reliable sources of information on the pandemic and relief efforts.
For more information on scam activity and best practices, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.
Have you been the victim of a COVID-19 scam? Let us know in the comments.
Graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honors BA English Specialization and has completed several publishing courses at Ryerson University. She is a proofreader, editor, and content writer based in London, Ontario.