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Beware of These Scams During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As you take precautions to protect yourself from the coronavirus, don’t forget to safeguard your financial well-being from fraudsters who are hoping to cash in on the paranoia. Here’s how you can identify scams that are currently being used and what you can do to ensure you are shielded from fraud during the pandemic. 


Well this escalated quickly.

The coronavirus is a devastating pandemic that is making a massive impact on the economy and health care systems all across the world. As of March 20, the world has experienced over 267,000 cases of the virus and although Canada is only representing a small portion of that total with 925 cases, we are in uncharted territory. Terms like “social distancing” and “self monitoring” have become second nature in (remote) conversation and we’ve all been exchanging shows to binge on Netflix during our two week long self-isolation periods.

This is truly an unsettling time where paranoia and panic are running rampant. Unfortunately, like a virus themselves, fraudsters and scammers feed on this urgency and as if we didn’t have enough to worry about, with the increase in global coverage comes an increase in fraud activity. Let’s make sure you are briefed and safeguarded against the types of fraud to watch out for so you can focus on protecting yourself from the global pandemic.

Fraudulent Health Products & Professionals

Fraudsters know that during a pandemic, your anxiety surrounding your health skyrockets and you’ll do whatever it takes to ensure you and your family are protected. From the moment that the coronavirus hit the global media, scammers were creating fake products that claim to boost your immune system, cure you from symptoms and, in some instances, have access to a vaccine.

The sad truth of the matter is that although they are in development, we are likely a year away from having a vaccine available and there are no approved drugs to prevent the virus. The websites and messages that these scammers are sending are chocked full with convincing information on the product, faux testimonials, professional sounding terms like “clinical trial” and even conspiracy theories about their company having access to a vaccine that the pharmaceutical industry is withholding for money. We’ve also seen con artists who are impersonating World Health Organization professionals with alleged access to information on a miracle drug. These con artists have been sending emails with important updates on the virus that prompts readers to click on a phishing link or download malicious software.

How you can protect yourself: Caution will prevail here. As long as you know that any medical information, especially on vaccines or treatment, will come directly from your healthcare professional and not from a link from a suspicious email address – you’ll know not to click anything or entertain any offers for a miracle drug. Be suspicious of products and “professionals” that have cured the virus and when in doubt, check with your health care professional.

Fake Charities & Fundraising Efforts

Another tactic that fraudsters employ is to pull on your heart strings. With the coronavirus affecting so many small businesses and charities, many are calling for aid in order to navigate these tough waters. Scam emails and phone calls have been going out to try and trick people into donating to fake charities and relief efforts. They may say that they are looking for a small donation but as soon as they have your credit card number or authorization, they have access to take as much as they want.

In addition, you may see a few GoFundMe pages pop up on social media feeds to rally monetary support to offset expenses that affected families are incurring due to the virus. Most of these pages are started by incredibly generous people in order to provide support for families in a time of need, but unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters have also taken advantage of this method.

How you can protect yourself: Unless you know the family that is garnering the support or someone you know can vouch for them, it is safest to move along from any GoFundMe page or fundraising websites calling for monetary support. If you do want to contribute some money to a relief fund, consider experienced or established relief organizations, especially those that clearly describe the use of the funds. Beware of scammers impersonating those organizations, though!

Face Mask Scams

Yes, these are a thing. Scammers are actually capitalizing on the high demand for face masks. Many different websites and organizations claiming to sell face masks online are attempting to lure you in by showing they have a limited amount of stock available. Why is this effective? The urgency and scarcity for an in-demand product will increase the likelihood of an impulsive purchase. It’s the same method that infomercials employ with “Act now before it’s gone!” messaging. The Red Cross has actually issued a warning that scammers are posing as them to solicit face mask purchases through text messages.

How you can protect yourself: Whether it is face masks, hand sanitizer or another product you are buying to protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure you are keeping an eye out for phony e-commerce sites and scams. If your gut is telling you that something “just doesn’t feel right” or “it seems too good to be true”, it most likely is. Only purchase from stores and websites with an established reputation. The most effective way to avoid a scam is to buy directly from a seller you are familiar with and who you already trust. When in doubt, make sure the seller has legitimate contact information, a real street address and a customer service number you can call before you hand over your name, address and credit card number.


It has yet to be seen how long the coronavirus will remain classified as a pandemic, but heightened fraud activity will be a constant throughout. Remain vigilant to avoid scams related to the virus, use caution when giving out your credit card information to e-commerce and relief efforts,  and look out for fake cures, phony prevention measures, and other coronavirus cons. We’ll get through this – but let’s make sure your financial well-being does, too.

How TO Fall for a Scam

Yes, you read that right. Fraud is not new and is something that’s been around for a long time – we all know a family member, friend or co-worker who has fallen victim to a scam. We all think “it will never happen to me” but it’s easier than you think to fall for a fraudster. Let’s take a look at how it can happen.   


With ever-growing technology, we’re seeing an increase in the number of scams out there and between 2014-2016, it’s estimated Canadians lost over $290 million to fraudsters. Scams and fraud can originate through a variety of different channels including phone, email and social media, and some of the top scams include romance scams, income tax extortion scams and phishing.  

 Here are a few tips on how to protect your information and detect one of the scams out there: 

Caught in a bad romance 

 Gone are the days of having to go to the bar or local hangout to meet that special someone. With the growth of technology, many relationships nowadays are starting online. 

Unfortunately, this has also caused an increase in romance scams and, in 2018, Canadians lost more than $22.5 million to this type of scam. That’s a lot of money that could have paid for heartbreak chocolate and ice cream.

A romance scams usually starts with a fake profile on an online dating site or social network and the scammer pretends to be someone they’re not by using a fake name, photos, etc. The scammer will build a fake relationship with you over a short period of time and often professes their love for you early on. Just as the ‘relationship’ is getting ‘serious’, your new bae will have a financial emergency such as a health issue or wants to visit you in person and needs you to send money. After you’ve sent the money, they’ll continue to ask for more… and more… or they’ll stop communicating with you altogether.  

Don’t let love blind you and use these tips to protect your money and your heart. 

  • Look at the photo – does it look real? Many scammers use photos from the web for their profiles.  Check to see if the photo is real, not stolen, by doing a reverse image lookup 
  • If the person can never video chat or keeps finding excuses not to meet up, it’s probably because they aren’t who they say they are. This is called “catfishing”. 
  • Never… ever… under any circumstances send them money for any reason, especially if you have never met them in person.  

Congradulations! Your our sweapstakes winner! 

Phishing is a common type of fraud that often comes in the form of a prize, threats such as your bank account being locked and you must take immediate action to open it, or a refund due to an overpayment on your account. Scammers will use a variety of channels including phone & text, email and fake websites.    

Don’t take the bait and follow these tips to recognize when you’re being phished: 

  • Most scam emails and texts contain spelling errors, bad grammar or altered logos. At first glance, it may look real, but upon further inspection something may be wrong like the sub-heading above. Did you notice the spelling errors in our heading or did you have to scroll back up for a second glance? 
  • Check the link before clicking on it by holding your cursor over link to display the full URL. If it looks suspicious, it probably is. Instead, contact the company directly or visit its website to confirm if any actions are required from you. 
  • Beware of urgent or threatening language. Causing a sense of urgency or fear is a common phishing tactic in order to draw an impulsive decision from you. 

No one cares that your first cat’s name was Fluffy 

 Raise your hand if you’ve seen a quiz or survey filled out by one of your friends pop up in your social media feed. Now raise your hand again if you’ve ever done one of these quizzes or surveys and shared with your followers.  

I’m also guilty.

With social media, we’re seeing more than ever people sharing information about themselves online.  Yes, it may be fun to reminisce on your past and share all the things you love such as the name of your first pet or the make of your first car, but you know who also loves this information… scammers! 

Sharing this info can be a goldmine for hackers and fraudsters as it helps them build their knowledge of information about you even more. A lot of the time, we also choose security questions for our different accounts related to the answers of these questions, putting us at further risk of being hacked.  This also allows fraudsters to build a profile around you so that they can confidently walk into a bank and pretend to be you. 

Reduce the risk and stop oversharing information about yourself on social media as well as: 

  • Choose security questions and answers that can’t easily be guessed. Your mother’s maiden name may be an easy one for you to remember, but it’s also an easy one for fraudsters to google. 
  • Don’t share photos of your personal and financial information such as your driver’s license or new credit card.
  • If going away on vacation, don’t share details on social media before you go or while you’re there. Doing so is equivalent to saying “I’m not home right now, please feel free to come break in and steal my stuff, especially the new TV I just posted on Instagram.”
  • Make your accounts and posts private so that only those you know and trust can see what you’re up to. Don’t be afraid to prune the friend-tree every once and a while. If you don’t know what someone has been up to in a while, you also have no idea if their account has been hacked.

The sophistication of fraudsters is increasing and as organizations raise the bar on security, fraudsters up their tactics to try and trick us into giving them information and our money. For more information about protecting yourself from fraud and to learn about different scams out there, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/finance/fraud.html 


Ever fallen victim to a fraudster or know someone who has? Comment below with how they tricked you to save someone else!