Beware of COVID-19 Scams

With the global spread of COVID-19, scammers are preying on your fears. Canadians are being warned to be careful of the scams that are circulating.

Criminals trying to profit off your vulnerability during this global crisis are coming up with harmful ways to trick you in person and through technology. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre anticipates there will be a significant increase in scams relating to COVID-19. These scams prey on your fears and uncertainty and leverage misinformation to make the schemes believable. 

The following are some examples of the scams out there:  

  • Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recorded calls claiming that your EI benefits will not be processed or that you owe money. The CRA does not use recorded messages to threaten you. If you do owe the CRA money or you're waiting on a decision on a claim, you will receive a letter first with detailed information regarding the outstanding money or claim decision.    
  • Private companies offering fast COVID-19 testing and kits for sale. Only hospitals and test centres can perform these tests and no other tests are guaranteed to provide accurate results. 
  • Text messages posing to be the Red Cross or other relief organizations asking for donations by following their link. DO NOT click the link. If you want to make donations go directly to the website of the organization you want to support.
  • Text messages, social media posts and emails posing as the Canadian Red Cross offering free face masks. Do not click on the link, the Canadian Red Cross has no such offer.
  • Phone calls from Health Services (or similar type of organization) reporting that you tested positive for COVID-19 and asking you for your credit card to send you a report or cures.
  • Scam callers saying they are calling from hydro companies threatening to cut off your hydro if you don’t make a payment to them.
  • Scammers purchasing large amounts of products and reselling them at much higher prices online. These products may be expired, of lower quality, or dangerous to your health.
  • Investment scams urging you to invest in hot new stocks related to the disease and its cure. 
  • Door-to-door solicitors offering fake decontamination services.
  • Companies selling fraudulent products or drugs that claim to treat or prevent the disease. Such products have not been approved by federal public health regulators and threaten the safety of public health.
  • Fraudsters posing as police and fining people for wearing masks, claiming that wearing a mask in public goes against a full-face veil law. It isn't illegal to wear a mask in public for health reasons.

Email Phishing Scams and Fake Web Applications

There are many email scams that are circulating as well. Suspicious emails are being sent on behalf of people you already know. Emails posing as your organization’s managers (CEOs, HR managers, executive directors, etc.) asking for odd requests are especially timely. Being away from the office makes it harder to verify if your manager or colleague actually sent you the message. 

If you get an email from someone you know and recognize the name, but the email message seems odd, always verify the sender’s address to ensure it’s the correct one. Cross-check it with your contacts list. If it is different from what the sender typically uses, reach out to them via the email address you have on file to confirm if they sent the suspicious email.

Never click on links or open attachments from suspicious emails, and don’t respond or follow their instructions. You can hover over the links to see what the URL is since it usually leads to irrelevant sources but don’t click on them.

Some of the most recent email and mobile scams include:

  • Emails falsely containing health information related to COVID-19 and/or requesting donations for Canadians affected by COVID-19. Don’t call the toll-free numbers in the message, contact the email addresses suggested, or click on the website addresses provided, as these will link you to the scammers.
  • Emails pretending to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) asking for login information, sending attachments, or asking for donations to the WHO. The WHO never solicits any of these requests. They have a Solidarity Response Fund Donation page that can be accessed through their website.
  • Emails posing as local public health services providing updated information on the coronavirus. Don’t wait for emails to come to you with the latest information from unknown sources. Follow the news sources you trust and read the updates there.
  • Emails promoting miracle cures, vaccines, and other potions to combat COVID-19. There is no known cure for COVID-19.
  • Coronavirus world maps. Beware of opening and sharing coronavirus world maps. Hackers are using these maps to embed malware and steal your passwords. 
  • Malicious COVID Tracker Apps that claim to track the global spread of the virus and offer heat mapping visuals but in reality it’s ransomware (an application called “COVIDLock”) that locks you out of your mobile and forces you to give up your password. 

If you have been a victim of fraud you should contact your local police or file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 (toll-free) or do it online through the Fraud Reporting System.

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Last updated: March 17, 2020 4006411