COVID-19 has many Canadians worried about their health and well being. Scammers are aware of this and are using recent events to prey on unsuspecting victims. Assistance is available from many reputable companies. If you are in need of financial, medical or some other form of assistance, use contact information for these companies that you find on your statements or the official website. At all times, it’s important to remember that if you didn’t initiate the contact or communication between yourself and someone else, whether it’s over the phone, over email or they came to your door, then you really don’t know who you’re actually communicating with. So you must be cautious of anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Recent events with regards to COVID-19 mean there is another reason for scammers to prey on victims. They are preying on people’s fear and ignorance to separate victims from their money.
- Cleaning and Duct Cleaning Scams These scammers are offering duct cleaning services to protect you and your family from COVID-19 or special air filters which supposedly offer protection against the virus. Duct cleaners have been making unsolicited calls for years, but now unscrupulous fraudsters are using this crisis to frighten you. You can contact your local health department to see if there are new products and services that can offer you and your family real protection.
- Utility Company Scams Another scam threatens to disconnect your service for non-payment and requires you to go out and buy prepaid cards and then call the “company” back with the gift card numbers. Whatever you do, don’t panic. Instead, stop and think: Why would your local utility company want to be paid in gift cards? Your utility company may already be offering delayed or deferred payments at this time to offer some financial relief to those who have been impacted by COVID-19. Find your utility company’s phone number (don’t call the number the scammer gave you) and see what options they are able to offer if you are behind with payments. And never give out your utility account number or other financial information to unsolicited callers.
- Public Health Agency of Canada Scam Some people have received an email saying they have tested positive for COVID-19 and are tricked into confirming their health card number and credit card number, so they can be provided a prescription. Government agencies and other legitimate agencies WILL NOT ask for this personal information via email or phone. One particular scam sends victims an email telling them they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. They are then asked to fill out a form that looks a lot like an Excel form, but when users click to view the form, their computer is infected with a download that installs malicious files. It cannot be stressed enough that you should never click on a link from an unknown source.
- Charity Scams Some scammers are offering free medical products, such as face masks, in exchange for a small donation. These fraudulent charities ask you to click on a link that takes you to their spoof website, and then ask for a small donation to cover the delivery fee to obtain the “free” product. Again, their aim is to get you to reveal personal information and financial details, so they can access your money.
- Financial Advisor Scams These scams include offering a hot new stock related to the virus, or financial aid, or loans to help you get through this difficult time. Delete these emails immediately and ignore the phone calls. As always, you should only deal with financial institutions and financial advisors you are familiar with. You can call your own bank to see what assistance they are currently offering regarding deferred payments. Your bank or credit union will never call you to request your PIN.
- Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Scam The CRA is NOT contacting Canadians to claim the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). You must apply for the benefit yourself. According to a CRA spokesperson, any direct communication Canadians receive about applying for the CERB is a scam. These scammers are phishing to get your personal information.
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