With COVID-19 on everyone’s minds, scammers are using that to their advantage, according to the OPP’s Serious Fraud office.
“Not only are the standard frauds still happening, but scammers are exploiting the current health crisis,” Constable Erin Fraser explained. “From selling you fake masks, to sending emails telling you that utilities are going to be cut off for non-payments. Scammers are coming up with new ways of stealing your money and personal information all the time.”
Some of these frauds can seem like common sense to avoid, but the scammers have some tactics they use to reel you in, according to the OPP.
“People are at home isolated,” Fraser said. “Someone could be more vulnerable to falling victim to a romance scam. We’re on our devices a lot more than usual so we might be more inclined to click links through text or emails.”
“A lot of people have fear of contracting COVID-19 or transmitting it to someone else,” she continued. “So, they get caught up in the hype of buying fake pandemic related items like masks, tests, cleaners, or cleaning supplies.”
“A scam to look out for is the offering of free goods, such as a mask or other protective equipment,” Constable Lisa Cruz added. “Although these products claim to be free, you may be required to provide a credit card number to cover the shipping costs or provide a donation and often you will be charged an unexpected amount and you often won’t receive the goods.”
“If you are ordering, make sure it is from a secure, reputable source,” she continued. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Officials say there is another scam going around with scammers claiming to have your COVID-19 test results.
“They say they have your results and you have tested positive for the virus,” Fraser said. “What they’re looking to do is trick you into confirming personal information via health card or credit card number. Take a minute to think if you have been tested for COVID-19, are you awaiting results? You don’t just randomly get test results.”
“Fraudsters will also pretend to be members of organizations like the World Health Organization and they are requesting donations to fight COVID-19,” she added. “Find reputable causes on your own rather than having someone call you.”
According to the constables, the best defence against fraud is to slow things down and think about it.
“There’s no rush,” Cruz said. “Don’t be afraid to say no or hang up the phone. These scammers try to create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly and do it. Always do your research when purchasing online or over the phone. Be aware of up-front fees as they are common red flags for a scam.”
Officials say if any of these situations happen, report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or your local OPP.