COVID-19 Scams to Watch Out For

Written by Kelley Keehn

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

As you and your family work hard to self-isolate and protect yourselves from the COVID-19 pandemic, there's something else to be on the lookout for: scammers.

Fraudsters are using our emotions to try to take advantage of us, just when we're potentially at our weakest.

By knowing they're out there and the red flags to look out for, you and your loved ones can keep yourselves safe from these fraudsters.

COVID-19 Scam 1: Fake Websites

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the RCMP are working hard to shut down fake websites. These cyber spies are scouring websites that are pretending to be Health Canada, Canada Revenue Agency and more.

As we're encouraged to stay home and physically distance ourselves from others, we are simultaneously being encouraged to stay social by all authorities. And that's a great thing! However, it means that scammers are taking to social media to spread their bogus offers and claims. They're offering false glimmers of hope like phony COVID-19 testing kits or ultraviolet disinfectant lamps that kill the virus. Neither are true.

When in doubt, go to official websites you trust. Never click a link in an email, text or on social media.

COVID-19 Scam 2: Phishing Attacks

Now that government dollars are starting to flow in with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, there are still updates being announced and people have questions about federal and provincial benefits.

Fraudsters are trying to catch victims by offering enticements to "get your money quicker" or to qualify for other types of assistance. Don't click on these offers by text or email, or any attachments for payments or requests for information.

COVID-19 Scam 3: Phone Calls

Be on the lookout for calls for bogus donation requests to fake charities. Scammers will also call warning you that you've tested positive for COVID-19 and need to provide your credit card for payment of the prescription or cure. Don't give your credit card information to them.

COVID-19 Scam 4: Work from Home Scams

With over one million Canadians losing their jobs in the month of March, you can be sure you'll start seeing counterfeit "work from home" scams that offer easy income and all you have to do is pay an upfront fee. Don't buy into these.

COVID-19 Scam 5: Investment Fraud

As many investors see their portfolios go through the roller coaster of massive ups and downs, scammers may offer their "safe" and "low-risk" alternatives, taking advantage of your stock market fears. These were hallmarks of the 2008/2009 financial crisis. These investment cons can take the form of real estate or gold deals, fake certificates of deposit and so much more.

If you have concerns, you may want to check with your provincial securities commissions to spot the red flags. The OSC and the ASC both have fantastic resources, as does FP Canada to find the tools to interview a financial planner.

Make sure you're asking the right questions, checking to see if the seller is registered and never use their third-party referrals (like their lawyer, accountant, mortgage broker or planner) since they could be in on the swindle. Get your own independent second opinion.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Fraud

  • Hang up the phone if you suspect it's a fraudster, or don't answer at all. If the call is legit, they'll leave a message
  • Don't click any links or attachments in unknown emails or text messages
  • Read emails very carefully. When in doubt, go directly to the company's official website yourself. Don't click any links in the email itself
  • Don't trust everything you read or see advertised on social media
  • Be wary of any links or attachments sent to you through social media messaging, even if they seem like they're coming from a friend
  • Check bank and credit card statements for fraud and report anything suspicious to your bank immediately (and under 30 days)
  • Put a free alert on your debit and credit card. That way you'll get a notice by text or email every time your card is used
  • Check your credit reports for free online

If you suspect fraud, please report it to your bank immediately, to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and to your local police if you've been a victim.

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