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Protect yourself from frauds and scams related to COVID-19

March 25,2020

Author: Martha Harbell

We’ve heard amazing stories about people helping each other through this crisis. Unfortunately, fraudsters often take advantage of fear and uncertainty with a variety of scams. You don’t need one more thing to worry about right now, so we’re here with advice on how to protect your money and personal information during this time of high anxiety.

Follow the basics of protecting yourself

  • Don’t install suspicious applications or click on suspicious links – like a link promising a list of people infected with COVID-19 in your neighbourhood, for example.
  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information – even if someone is promising to provide financial aid, or send you hand sanitizer in exchange for a donation.
  • Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is – like a stranger on the internet offering financial aid for those impacted by COVID-19.
  • Don’t ever share your passwords or security question answers. Make sure that passwords and answers are unique, difficult to guess, and follow best practice guidelines (this also includes e-Transfers).

​Recent frauds and scams targeting Canadians

Donation scams

There have been reports of text messages from a fraudulent account claiming to be the Red Cross offering a box of face masks in exchange for a donation or delivery fee. Donation scams are unfortunately very common at a time like this. Always make sure a charity is legitimate before donating. For example, you can check to see if a charity is registered in Canada.

Fake tests

Some people are selling fake testing kits door-to-door. Remember: only hospitals and public health agencies are currently authorized to perform these tests. Others have reported phone and voicemail scams telling them that they have tested positive for COVID-19 and requiring that they provide personal information and a payment in order to receive a prescription. Many people receiving these calls have not done a test, and no legitimate health agency would ask you for payment information over the phone.

Phishing emails and calls

Many people have reported phishing emails and calls claiming to be from legitimate organizations (such as the Public Health Agency of Canada, or Service Canada). Often, these communications will ask you to provide personal information in exchange for updates on COVID-19, or to reconfirm information to receive financial aid. If you are unsure, conduct your own due diligence and call the organization back at phone numbers you have verified as legitimate. If you are looking for updated information from an organization like the Public Health Agency of Canada, check their website. Learn more about phishing emails.

e-Transfer fraud

e-Transfers are a great way to send money without exchanging cash or meeting in person – you can pay back a friend, send money to a family member, or receive payments through email or text message. But even though e-Transfers are considered secure, criminals have found ways to use them to steal money. Always make sure you’re sending it to the right email account, choose a security question with an answer that isn’t easy to guess, and don’t include the security question’s answer in the e-transfer message. Learn more about preventing e-Transfer fraud.

During this time of uncertainty, it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge. For up-to-date information about COVID-19 frauds and scams in Canada, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.