As the world gears up to curb the spread of COVID-19, some people have taken to using the pandemic as a new way to scam vulnerable populations.
According to the BC RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), scammers are setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to obtain money and personal information from people.
These scammers have been spreading misinformation about COVID-19 as a way to ask for “donations”, offering advice on unproven treatments, protective gear or detection kits, or fake home sanitizing services.
In an effort to warn people about these scammers, the RCMP have debunked a list of six fraudulent claims that the public should watch out for.
- Fraud – Private companies offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale.
Fact – In Canada, only hospitals can perform the test and no other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results.
- Fraud – Door-to-door solicitors offering fake decontamination services.
Fact – Follow direction of the Provincial Health Authority to decontaminate your home and reduce your personal risk.
- Fraud – Fraudsters posing as police have been imposing on-the-spot fines to consumers wearing masks claiming that wearing a mask in public goes against a full-face veil law.
Fact – It is not illegal to wear a mask for health reasons.
- Fraud – Fraudsters urge you to invest in hot new stocks related to the virus.
Fact – You should only ever purchase stocks through reputable sources and banking institutions.
- Fraud – Fraudsters sending emails, texts or online campaigns that capitalize on the public’s fears about COVID-19.
Fact – Do not respond to unsolicited email, texts or phone calls. Don’t click on any links or provide any information about yourself. If you have any doubts about where the email came from, make sure to check the identity of the sender, and if you receive a suspicious phone call, hang-up.
- Fraud – Fraudsters are creating fraudulent and deceptive online ads offering cleaning products, hand sanitizers, other items in high demand
Fact – Buy from companies or individuals you know by reputation or from past experience. Before checking out, make sure you’re still on a reputable website and have not been redirected to a third-party page. Use a credit card when shopping online; many offer protection and may give you a refund.
Anyone who has lost money or belongings or divulged personal information to a scammer is asked to contact their local police.
Those who suspect they’ve been contacted by a fraudster but not lost anything or given out personal information are encouraged to make a report online to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.