Written by Kelley Keehn
Tuesday, October 5th, 2021
A reader of mine recently reached out to tell me about a message she'd received.
A few weeks after she received her second COVID-19 vaccine dose, she received a text that said she won $1,000 as part of a vaccine pool.
"I didn't enter any contest or anything, but I assumed the pharmacy must have registered me after my shots," she explained. "When the text came in to claim my prize and I just had to enter in some financial details to get the money, I took the bait. To my embarrassment and loss, the whole thing was fraudulent, and I ended up losing $200 after wiring what they said was an entrance requirement that I'll never get back."
She's not alone. Victims from COVID-specific fraud have continued to rise during the pandemic. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), there have been 21,923 victims and 7.6 million dollars lost. The CAFC also says that less than 5% of casualties ever report being victimized.
The Canadian Antifraud Centre is warning about a number of new scams to be on the lookout for. And it's important to note that these schemes are rarely entirely new, so it's essential that you learn the red flags and share them with your friends and family in order to spot them as they evolve. The more we all know, the less of our hard-earned dollars ends up in the hands of fraudsters.
Three Emerging COVID-19 Scams to Look Out For
#1. Vaccine prize scams. As more provinces and cities are providing incentives for getting your jab, fraudsters are trying to trick you into sending them your money in exchange for bogus prizes. The CAFC has also advised that phishing text message scams tied to COVID-19 vaccines are on the rise. In this variation, the CAFC states, the text message claims to be from the Government of Canada, falsely informing you that you're eligible for a Vaccine Relief Fund. The message tells you to claim your funds by clicking the link. But of course, the claim is fake and so is the link directing you to share your sensitive personal and financial information.
Red Flag: Don't click any links or attachments from texts, emails, or social media messages that you aren't 100% sure are legitimate. When in doubt, go to the source on your own (i.e. to the official government website – not through the suggested link).
#2. Work scams. As millions of Canadians are getting back to work or looking for work, fraudsters are going to great lengths to look legit. They might conduct several zoom interviews with you and create fake backgrounds that appear as if they're coming from a legitimate company. But it could all be a scam.
Red flag: If you're being asked to pay up front for training or equipment, that's a sure sign that the job offer isn't real and likely a fraudulent scheme.
#3. Tax incentives. As the federal and provincial governments are still announcing some new and continued supports to struggling Canadians, scammers are cashing in by luring victims with these fake offers. They're seeking to steal your personal info and go for the big scam by obtaining loans, filing for your benefits without your knowledge and much more.
Red flag: Texts, emails, calls, or social media messages that look like they're coming from the government offering "new" financial supports with links or attachments. If you feel you're eligible for a tax or other incentive, go directly to the Canada Revenue Agency website or your province or city's website. Never click the link you're sent.