With most of the world working together to try and contain the coronavirus, it’s hard to believe that some people are using it for their own gain. Fraudsters have been taking advantage of the fear, anxiety and uncertainty that many people are feeling during this crisis.
Coronavirus scams exploded soon after the virus became an issue in North America. Unfortunately, retired Canadians are often among these fraudsters’ prime targets. Here we take a look at the various Covid scams, what the government is doing to protect you and tips so you can protect yourself.
How the government is fighting back
The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is at the heart of the government’s anti-coronavirus scam efforts. In one four-day period in March, it took down over 100 fraudulent websites that were fronts for Covid scams.
The government’s Communications Security Establishment is also constantly providing government officials with information that can be quickly passed on to the public.
While the government is certainly fighting back, the corona scammers are unfortunately often one step ahead. This is why everyone (no matter how old) needs to be on their guard.
What the Covid-19 scammers are trying to achieve
Fraudsters’ end goal is always to con someone out of money, and they use a host of ways to achieve this.
Many coronavirus scams try to install malware or spyware on a computer or cell phone. This software can allow them to access personal information. They then use this for identity theft, meaning that they commit fraud in your name.
Other Covid-19 scams are attempts at phishing. This is a scam that tries to get you to reveal your personal, financial or health card information, or your credit card details. All of these can be used to steal money from you or for fraudulent activity. Some corona scams try to get you to send them money directly, usually by credit card payment, Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.
How to spot a coronavirus scam
Many Covid-19 scams begin with an unsolicited email or text, claiming to be from the government, a well-known charity or other legitimate organization. The message and fake websites often look very convincing. It’s almost certainly a corona scam if the message asks you to click on any suspicious links or attachments or supply personal information.
Any unsolicited message referring to Covid-19 that asks you to send money is almost certainly a coronavirus hoax. Some scammers pretend to be charities and ask for money for victims or research for the virus. Some offer face masks in return for a donation. Don’t fall for these!
One prevalent coronavirus scam is the attempt to sell Covid-19 cures, vaccines or test kits. These are all false claims as there is currently no cure or vaccine and tests can only be carried out by hospitals or government health agencies.
A particularly unpleasant corona scam involves the attempt to sell fake lists of infected people in your neighbourhood. Others involve sending out fake results saying you’ve tested positive for the virus. It’s important to keep your guard up and not fall for any of these Covid-19 scams.
Another widespread Covid scam takes the form of an email claiming to be from a government body offering safety measures against the virus or details of coronavirus cases in your town. One scam informs you that a Canada relief fund deposit has been sent to you. They then try to get victims to transfer payment to process their bogus coronavirus benefit cheque.
While this list of scams may seem overwhelming, it is not extensive. If you are unsure about an email or call you receive about Covid, make sure you exercise extra caution and ask a family member, friend or other trusted professional if you aren’t sure.
How to protect yourself from coronavirus scams
- Treat any unsolicited email or text mentioning Covid-19 and asking for personal information, as a scam – they often ask for your SIN number, bank details, date of birth or login password.
- Any email that asks you to act urgently (particularly if it involves sending money or giving out personal details) is almost certainly a Covid-19 scam.
- Don’t click on any links in emails or texts you receive – if you think it may be a legitimate message, go to the company’s site or contact them directly.
- Don’t open attachments in unsolicited emails from people you don’t know.
- Be wary of any texts or emails that ask for personal information, but begin with a generic greeting such as Dear sir/madam.
- Install antivirus software, keep it updated and also update your operating system, so it can protect you from the latest viruses and malware.
Resources you can trust
There are several websites that you can trust for advice on Covid-19 and coronavirus hoaxes. Some include:
- The Public Health Agency of Canada has valuable, up-to-date information and advice regarding Covid-19.
- The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre provides updates on Covid scams.
- The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security publishes alerts and advisories on potential online threats.
Here are some great resources from the Canadian Banking Association on how to educate yourself and fight fraud online
If in doubt, ignore it
When it comes to coronavirus scams, follow the tips above and trust your instincts. If something seems too good to be true or even remotely suspicious, you should ignore it.
If you do become a victim of a Covid-19 scam, it’s important to report it to the police immediately. If you suspect one, you can report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
It’s important during this time to not only protect your health, but to also protect yourself from becoming the victim of any potential Covid-19 scam