The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in people trying to help fight the spread of the virus and the fear attached to it. Unfortunately this crisis has also brought out fraudsters, including hackers and scammers, who are trying to take advantage of us during this unsettled time.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has reported an increase in reports of email and text message fraud attempts since the beginning of the COVID–19 public health emergency.1 Tammy McKinnon, Head of the Financial Crimes and Fraud Management Group at TD Bank says, “With many people feeling uneasy about the COVID–19 pandemic, fraudsters are taking advantage of the situation. It is more important than ever before, that we remain vigilant in the fight against fraud and do everything we can to protect ourselves from falling victim to scams.”
She also notes that a recent TD survey revealed that the majority (61%) of Canadian respondents found a strong link between social isolation and vulnerability to fraud, as those who are socially isolated may not have anyone to act as a sounding board if they encounter a fraudster.
How fraud and scams work
While scams can be presented in a wide variety of ways, fraudsters generally try to solicit personal information such as your bank account number or PIN or impersonate family members in a crisis to get money. They may even try to sell you bogus products and services. These can include fake government emergency relief messages, the sale of fake masks, test kits and high-demand consumer goods. Like most scams, these are commonly conducted via text and email (phishing) or over the phone — all for the purpose of stealing personal information and banking credentials.
How to help protect yourself against fraud and scams
Fraudsters don’t discriminate at the best of times, but periods of volatility and uncertainty can make it easier for us to fall victim to fraud. The RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have put together a list of scams related to the ongoing health crisis. All Canadians should be on the lookout for potential scams including phishing, malware, and other malicious email campaigns. McKinnon reminds people to remember the old adage — if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.