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Fraud alert: Criminals prey on fear in uncertain times

The Ontario Provincial Police Anti-Rackets Branch and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) say COVID-19 related scams are ploys to extort money and personal information from fearful, trusting victims.

Fraudsters are taking advantage of citizens’ fear during uncertain times – exploiting this pandemic to facilitate fraud through cybercrime and any other means to obtain information.

Police are seeing various scenarios but report most are the typical urgency and time-sensitive circumstances that criminals place on individuals in order to receive personal and financial information. Many of the reports have a medically-related theme to instantly set further anxiety in order to gain information.

From spoofed government, healthcare or research companies to unsolicited calls, emails and texts giving medical advice or requesting urgent personal information, scammers are looking at gaining information.

According to information received by the CAFC, some of the more popular scams are related to:
– Cleaning or heating companies offering duct cleaning services or air filters to protect from COVID-19
– Local and provincial hydro/electrical power companies threatening to disconnect power for non-payment
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization offering fake lists for sale of COVID-19 infected people in your neighbourhood
– Public Health Agency of Canada giving false results saying people have been tested positive for COVID-19
– tricking people into confirming health card and credit card numbers for a prescription
– Red Cross and other known charities
offering free medical products (e.g. masks) for a donation
– Government departments sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails tricking people into opening malicious attachments, tricking people to reveal sensitive personal and financial details
– Financial advisors pressuring people to invest in hot new stocks related to the disease offering financial aid or loans to help you get through the shut downs
– Private companies offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale. Only health care providers can perform the tests. No other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results.
– Selling fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent the disease
Police remind the public unapproved drugs threaten public health and violate federal laws.

If you were using your computer when scammed, it’s possible a virus or malicious software was installed on your computer. Run a full system check using reliable security software. If you do not have security software such as virus scanners and a firewall installed on your computer, a trusted computer professional can help you choose what you need.

Scammers may have also gained access to your online passwords or other personal information. Change these using a secure computer.

If you paid someone by credit card or through an electronic funds transfer, contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately. They may be able to stop or reverse the transaction.

Learn more from trusted resources and advice
– Refer to Government of Canada COVID-19 health, financial and security resources 

– Refer to Financial Consumer Agency of Canada COVID-19 information

– Reference the latest health information from these legitimate sources:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization)

Contact your insurance provider to answer any health insurance benefits questions.

If you or someone you know suspect they’ve been a victim of a COVID 19 related scam or any other scam, contact your local police service. You can also file a complaint through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website or by phone at 1-888-495-8501. m

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