COVID-19 scams – everything is an opportunity

COVID-19 scams – everything is an opportunity

Scammers continue to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, seniors’ identity theft has become such an issue that some seniors are being blocked from applying for CERB benefits online and must do is by phone so that CERB applications processors can satisfy themselves the caller is legit.

Typically, potential victims will receive a text on their mobile claiming to be from CERB, the Public Health Agency of Canada or Employment Insurance. Recipients are invited to click on a link and confirm information by providing financial and personal information.

If you have been dealing with these agencies you were online or on the phone. You won’t be texting with them, so don’t respond, just delete or alert the agency itself that you are receiving the texts.

If you aren’t dealing with these agencies and you are receiving emails or phone calls, again, contact the Anti-Fraud Centre in Ottawa and delete it.

The majority of the reported frauds are scammers after your personal information. They use it to apply for CERB payments. If someone is applying for CERB payments in your name you could be responsible for repayments down the line, or at the very least a paper battle with bureaucrats.

The other current fave for scammers is online discounted or super deals on facemasks and personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing kits, or “cures” and “treatments.”

More than 60 per cent of COVID-19 scam complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre are from people who purchased facemasks and didn’t get their order, or it was an inferior product or counterfeit.  Another 18 per cent of complaints dealt with other PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) such as gloves and sanitizers.

The best way to avoid being taken in this scam is the age-old rule of thumb, “if it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

PPE is in huge demand, you want to order from known or trusted sources, and expect to pay the going rate. Local sources still exist, check around.

Designer masks and other handmade, homemade or non-medical PPE are available from many online sources. Again, trust your instincts. They aren’t cheap.

Check reviews, ask your friends, make sure the company exists in brick and mortar.  If it’s just a mailbox, back away.

As for test kits, check with your doctor’s office or the Provincial Health Authority to get test information and sources.

And the cure? That’s a future product; don’t invest your hard-earned cash in the latest snake oil.

Scammers will never pass up an opportunity. Smile, stay calm and carry on.

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