Over the last several weeks, investigators with the Toronto Police Service have noticed an increase in online scams associated with COVID-19.
These fraudulent activities have reportedly taken the form of text messages, emails, and websites, as well as some phone calls and door-to-door visits.
According to police, text messages have been received that request banking information for processing government payments for Emergency Benefits or the Canada Revenue Agency, fines for leaving the house too many times, or demands for immediate payment alongside threats of cancelled services.
Officials say that emails have included fraudulent or corrupt links on topics such as “delivery details” for those most likely to be using delivery services, or “special offers” for coronavirus-related products or services.
Finally, police report that websites have been advertising the sales of said products and services, such as testing kits, cleaning products or remedies, as well as information from “health officials,” requesting information and/or links to other sites.
Investigators said they have also learned of various telephone or door-to-door scams including offers to shop for and deliver groceries. In these cases, a request for credit card information is often included.
Scammers have also reportedly advertised sales of products and services related to the virus.
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With more residents spending time at home, online, investigators are reminding the public to protect themselves in the following ways:
- Do not click on random links
- Do not provide your personal information – including banking information
- Do not install unknown applications, even if you’re asked to via email/text/etc.
- Use two-factor authentication for online payments
- Do not use links sent via email/text to access online accounts
- Set up strong passwords for new or existing online accounts
- Back up your work regularly and work offline, when possible
- Use software to protect yourself from malware and viruses
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of any fraud is encouraged to contact police at 416-808-2222, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, on the Facebook Leave a Tip page, or by texting TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).