Extenuating circumstances, like those brought on by COVID-19, can make people more vulnerable to scams and as a result, more likely to be targeted. During these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever to protect your family, your health and even your finances!
We’ve outlined five of the most common scams people are encountering during the pandemic so you can learn more and stay safe:
1. Phone Calls/Text Messages
At this point, you’ve probably received at least one call from a fraudulent source claiming to be the Public Health Agency of Canada. These messages will state that positive test results have been obtained and that you should provide your personal and financial information in order to fill a necessary prescription.
If you ever receive a call from an unknown number, it’s best not to answer it. If you do accidentally answer it, don’t provide any personal or financial information and proceed to block the number from calling again.
There are also a variety of text message scams floating around that you should be aware of. One of which involves the Red Cross messaging you to let you know that you can obtain a free face mask by clicking a link. The Canadian Red Cross has officially confirmed that they are not providing any such resource so should you receive these messages, don’t reply or click on anything provided and delete it immediately.
2. CERB Fraud
Since Canadians can still apply for Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) funding retroactively, there are plenty of fraudsters looking to cash in on this knowledge. One method we’ve seen involves the scammers using a stolen identity (retrieved via a phishing scam, for example) to apply for CERB fraudulently via the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in someone else’s name, or to re-direct a legitimate benefit into another account. Sometimes they’ll actually approach an eligible person with an offer to help them apply for CERB and then use their identity to re-direct the benefit.
Always check your account regularly for suspicious activity and remember that the CRA never uses text messages or sends emails requiring you to provide personal or financial information. If you receive a message from the CRA and you’d like to verify that it was real, you can call them directly at 1-800-959-8281.
3. Phishing Emails
Many scammers are sending COVID-19 phishing emails pretending to be from a government department that will assist with providing an immediate financial refund. Sometimes these messages trick people into opening malicious email attachments or providing personal/financial information.
Don’t ever open emails from unknown senders and don’t click on any links that may seem suspicious If you’re in need of more information regarding government funding and programs related to COVID-19, visit their website directly.
4. Fake Charities
’Tis the season to give back, and with all the uncertainty surrounding the current state of the world, scammers have begun to create fake charities or imitate legitimate ones like the Canadian Red Cross in order to trick people into donating money to help others that are being affected by COVID-19.
If you’re ever uncertain about the legitimacy of a charity, do some digging online to learn more about what they do and how you can contact them directly. Any legitimate charity will have information available regarding their mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your donation is tax deductible. You can also ask for their registered tax number and confirm their registration information by calling 1-800-267-2384.
5. Job Scams
With so many people out of work and looking for jobs, scammers are falsely hiring “mystery shoppers” or “financial agents” who receive money direct deposited into their personal accounts and are either required to forward that money on to someone else or return remaining funds after making the purchases requested by the fraudster. Since the original funds received were counterfeit, the victim will be on the hook for all money they sent and could even be flagged with money laundering.
Before you apply for any job, do your research to make sure the company is legitimate. A simple online search could provide the information you need. You should also never send your bank account information to anyone you don’t know or trust.
If you find yourself a victim of one of these COVID-19 scams, make sure you report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) at 1-888-495-8501. This will help identify new types of scams and hopefully prevent other innocent people from suffering the same fate.