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How to be on the look out for COVID-19 scams

August 12th 2020 - Written by Betty Anne Flynn

In an effort to stay healthy and safe for the past 5 months we have all faced major changes in our daily routines. We have experienced separation from family and friends, financial difficulties, fear and anxiety and for some the loss of loved ones.  To make matters worse, scammers continue to lurk in the background, trying every angle to capitalize on our fears and vulnerabilities.   

We must remain alert in protecting ourselves from these scams, recognizing what is real and what is not.  Here are some tips to help you.

Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) and Government Benefits

The CERB benefit has helped thousands of Canadians who have experienced unemployment during COVID-19.  It’s easy for Canadians to apply for CERB each month, and funds are received in a timely manner.  If you do receive the CERB benefit, or any government benefits for that matter, you should have funds deposited automatically into your bank or credit union account.  Having cheques mailed to you creates opportunities for the thousands of cheques being mailed each month to be stolen and cashed. 

Automatic deposit to your bank or credit union account is just that, an automatic deposit of funds.  CRA does not send texts or emails asking you to verify or accept payment.  This applies to all government benefits such as CERB, tax refunds, CPP, OAS, GST benefit or Ontario Sales Tax Benefit.  You should never click on any links through a text or email to accept government benefits.  These are scams. 

Offer for Assistance in Applying for Government Benefits

If you receive an email offering assistance in applying for CERB, or any other financial benefits, do not reply.  These types of emails look legitimate, often using government logos that look authentic, and it is very easy to get tricked.  These types of emails or websites are often scams trying to collect your personal information useful for all kinds of fraudulent activity. 

Cleaning Products, Hand Sanitizers and PPE

There has been a shortage in products such as disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, masks, and other supplies useful to fend off COVID-19.  Scammers are taking advantage of this situation and have been preying on our desperation and fear to sell us substandard products through telemarketing, internet websites and even door-to-door sales.  Only buy from reputable stores or online sites.  Do your research before purchasing any products from suspicious vendors.

Miracle Cures / Medical

Other very popular scams are miracle cures, products that “help” protect us from getting the virus like vitamins and protein powders, products to boost our immune systems, test kits, and herbal remedies. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Don’t let your fear entice you into buying these products.  There is plenty of legitimate science-based advice given by reputable doctors on the daily news, helping you to understand what, if any, medicinal products are helpful.

Charitable Donations

Solicitation for charities associated with COVID-19, is yet another well-known scam opportunity.  Do your homework before donating any funds to charities claiming to assist with vaccination research, or to assist families experiencing financial difficulties. Ensure the legitimacy of the organization or people asking for money. 

Unfortunately, everyday scammers and fraudsters are coming up with new schemes to collect your personal information, or to sell you bogus products. Never give your personal information over the phone, online or on your doorstep if someone is soliciting you.  Delete any suspicious emails or texts and never click on the links. 

Here is a great link to the Government of Canada website to find out more information on keeping yourself, your money and your identity safe.