Scammers are continuously finding new ways to mislead consumers and take undue advantage of vulnerable individuals. Scam artists have been using the panic and uncertainty regarding COVID-19 to prey on consumers. As more information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, the number of fraudulent activities increase, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit scams.
In these times of uncertainty, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre encourages you to exercise extreme caution to avoid falling for these scams and protect your finances. Reportedly, scammers are using various techniques such as phone calls, text messages, emails and door-to-door tactics to exploit consumers’ fears and target potential victims. We also strongly urge you to be wary of the misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and consider relying on official federal and provincial resources. We look at some common examples of COVID-19 related scams and the tips and tools available on how you can protect yourself from fraud.
Here are a few common examples of COVID-19 scams that we came across. Please note this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of scams:
Phishing emails related to the coronavirus often feature eye-catching yet misleading information. The aim of these emails is to get vulnerable consumers to disclose information or to download or click on malware. If you receive an email about COVID-19 with a link to get help or find cures, do not click the URL. If it appears to be from a source you trust, visit that source’s website directly.
Scammers are sending messages via email and texts while pretending to be from government sources. They are also mimicking government websites that are filled with misleading links used to commit financial fraud. Do not click on links in emails or text messages, always verify government sources before giving any sensitive information.
Additionally, scammers are luring consumers by posing as various companies and organizations claiming they are offering fake products and services meant to combat COVID-19. After clicking on these links, consumers are requested to input their financial information. Only a medical professional can give you proper medical advice for COVID-19, consult your doctor or provincial telemedicine before purchasing anything.
This method leverages on fear and involves calling random numbers and telling consumers that they have screened positive for coronavirus and demanding for their health card number along with their bank account information. If anyone calls you directly for personal information, again you should verify the source independently and not give away your information.
How to protect yourself?
Scammers are using consumers’ anxiety regarding COVID-19 to gain unfair advantage. Keep in mind these tips on how you can protect yourself from fraud:
- If you receive suspicious emails, don’t open any links
- Do not give out sensitive personal information by email or over a text message
- Monitor official sources for reliable information
- Regularly keep tabs on your bank accounts to spot suspicious charges and activities
- Be wary of unfamiliar phone numbers
For more information on how to protect yourself from financial fraud, visit:
To find out how the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) continuously fights against spam and financial fraud, visit https://www.piac.ca/ or subscribe to our newsletter. Stay safe and stay aware!
We remind consumers that PIAC is not a law firm and that the information provided here does not constitute legal advice; all information provided and content available is for general informational purposes only.