Coronavirus cons: Canadians being warned of rise in COVID-19 scams

Mar 20 2020, 3:20 pm

Both retailers and residents are being warned of a spike in COVID-19 scams that are occurring across Canada.

The message is being spread by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), and the RCMP. “Fraudsters are creative and want to profit from consumers’ fears, uncertainties, and misinformation,” reads a bulletin from the RCC.

Sonny Brar, Vice President of Member Relations and Education at RCC, tells Daily Hive that there are four main scams that are being observed by authorities.

“The first one is fraudsters that have been going into retail stores and distribution centres,” he explains in a phone interview. “They’ll say that they’re a cleaning company and offer fake decontamination services.”

In this case, the scammers will often try to trick workplaces and employees by saying that they can make the space “COVID-19 free.”

“That is false,” stresses Brar. “No such thing exists.”

The second scam that retailers are seeing includes scammers going into retail stores and inspecting first aid kits.

“They’ll inspect the first aid kit and after they’re done, they’ll approach a store manager and say, ‘Hey, your first aid kit isn’t COVID-19 compliant,'” Brar explains. “Then they’ll offer their service.”

As it stands, there is no current law or regulation in any occupation or health and safety act across Canada that exists regarding this.

The third scam includes fraudsters posing as financial advisors and loan officers. Brar says that while anybody could be a victim, the RCC has been seeing scammers going after smaller, independent stores.

“They’re offering financial aid or loans to help people get through these tough times and saying that they can offer loans at low-interest rates,” he says. “Please be careful. It’s that good credit, bad credit, no credit pitch — if it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

The final scam involves fraudsters making random calls to people across Canada, posing as health authorities and asking for credit card information.

“They’re posing as a member of the public health agency of Canada providing false results and saying that you’ve tested positive for COVID-19,” says Brar. “They then trick you into confirming your health card number and credit card number for a prescription over the phone.”

The calls are random and the scammers will often hope they end up reaching someone who recently went for a test.

Brar notes that of the four main scams, the two most prevalent include calling residents with fraudulent results and inspecting first aid kits in workplaces.

The RCC is reminding both retailers and consumers to be cognizant of false or misleading information and to be wary of unsolicited emails and text messages. Consumers should also watch out for products that are being re-sold at higher prices and questionable offers such as miracle cures and herbal remedies.

More information on scams surrounding coronavirus can be found on the RCC website, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.

Keep up with COVID-19 news here.