Top COVID-19 Scams You Should Know About
During a time of public health emergency, staying isolated and keeping up standard hygiene practices is your best bet to staying safe from COVID-19. However, amid any mass panic, there are always scam artists trying to take advantage of the public during this trying time. When fear, panic, and paranoia creep in, it can be easy to lower your wits and give into essentials that may not be what they seem. Luckily, the Government of Alberta and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have been swift responding to these new COVID-19 related scams by publicly condemning the behaviour. As stated in our previous scam article, scammers often go after the most vulnerable as they try to prey on insecurities and fears while promising quick and easy solutions in the form of money, medication and/or connections. Even in troubling times, keep your wits about you and remember if something is too good to be true, it probably is. Through this article, we will breakdown the top COVID-19 related scams plaguing society as well as provide you solutions on how to stay safe. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our previous scam article here for more information on other related scams. If you have been scammed, be sure to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) or the police (911) for information and help on how to proceed. Remember, reporting a scam can always help the authorities gather more information to reduce future scams.
At Senior Homecare by Angels, we can help ease your fears of COVID-19 by putting you in touch with Alberta Health Services (AHS) or trusted doctors. If you think an email or phone call is fishy, it probably is. If you need a second opinion, we are here for you. As we work hand in hand with AHS and the Office of the Public Trustee, we know how to contact them to address your concerns. Feel free to ask any of our care staff for tips on how to stay safe during this time!
COVID-19 Related Scams:
As with previous scams, scams related to COVID-19 target the most vulnerable. Whether it’s the elderly, the immunocompromised or the poor, scammers try to prey on those that are easy targets. Unfortunately, amid a pandemic, the net is naturally widened as panic and fear set into society. From selling price gouging to fraudulent AHS phone calls, scammers will stop at nothing to get your personal, medical, or financial information. Below we will explore the top COVID-19 related scams as well with solutions on how to keep yourself safe.
1. Price Gouging
-Buying a heap of products at a regular price then selling them second hand for a highly marked up price.
-Hand sanitizers, masks, prescriptions, gloves, toilet paper, and thermometers have been all the rage as most stores have been sold out of these products.
-Due to reduced stock, people end up giving in to these increased prices as these essentials are needed one way or another.
-Don’t fall for it. Stores are aware of the reduced stock due to the increased demand for essentials. Therefore, stores are restocking their shelves accordingly.
-Though this may take time, be patient. From personal experience, if one store doesn’t have what you need, another store will likely have it.
-Remember, if you cannot find what you are looking for in a physical store, look online! Since most stores have an online presence, you can buy the same product for the same price to be shipped right to your door.
-Be sure to shop in the early hours of the day as most stores are stocked in the morning.
-To combat price gouging, stores are reducing the number of products being sold. One or two per customer limits have been implemented to avoid selling out of a certain product.
-This also includes certain prescriptions (on a case by case basis), as pharmacies are only renewing prescriptions for 30 days to avoid shortages of essential medications.
-Furthermore, stores are also refusing to accept refunds to those who want to return in bulk items. For example, those who bought 100 rolls to toilet paper are now stuck with the item or are forced to donate it to local hospitals or shelters.
-Most importantly, remember that trade routes will always be open, therefore, you will never be without essentials for long. It just may take longer to get than usual.
-Buy frozen, if you are unable to make it to the grocery store often, frozen food will keep for a long time. If you are in isolation for 14 days, frozen food, as well as non-perishables are great for long stays without having to worry about expiry.
2. Fake Services
-A lot of reports have been popping up of fraudsters posing as cleaners, heating companies or healthcare professionals.
-Though most of these come through online ads there has been some door to door salespeople offering fraudulent services.
-Like other scammers, their goal is to obtain personal and financial information to exploit.
-Never buy a service from a door to door salesperson. We live in the 21st century, if you need a service you can find it online via their website.
-If you are unsure if a product is legit, do your research. Find it online through a genuine seller such as grocery chains or well-known retailers. Buy from a trusted company rather than a questionable retailer. If a sale/product is too good to be true, it probably is.
-As scammers are trying to make a quick buck as soon as possible, don’t let them force you into something you aren’t comfortable with. If they are forcing you to fork over personal or financial information, don’t give in no matter how persistent they are.
-Fake emails, text messages, attachments, and websites that are designed to steal your money and information.
-Designed to get people to click on links, downloading malware, and/or disclosing personal logins or other sensitive information.
-It can also lead to infecting a computer network where all devices connected are at risk of hacking.
COVID-19 Related Phishing
-Mimicking emails, messages, and websites relating to AHS (as well as Red Cross, the World Health Organization [WHO] and/or the Center for Disease Control [CDC]) or other healthcare professionals (see below).
Photo Taken from Global News
-Fake lists for sale of infected COVID-19 citizens in your neighborhood by the CDC or WHO.
-False medical results from the Public Health Agency of Canada saying you tested positive for COVID-19 or withholding results until you enter your healthcare card and/or payment.
-COVID-19 themed emails from government departments riddled with malware or dangerous attachments.
-Emails from financial advisors pressuring people to invest in medical stocks related to the disease.
-Messages from private companies offering fast COVID-19 testing or selling fake products that prevent COVID-19.
-Don’t click on something you don’t recognize. Though these emails mimic legit organizations, don’t fall for it. If you are questioning the sender, best to not open the message.
-Keep a list of who you contacted. As stated, A lot of these hackers are able to gain access due to the fact that they mimic follow up emails from legit corporations. If you didn’t contact anyone, then it’s likely a phishing scam.
-A lot of phishing scams are riddled with spelling errors or generic greetings. If you ever see spelling errors in the email header or generic greetings like “Dear Sir/Madam”, avoid opening them.
-Any message that says “Urgent Action Required” is a classic scam tactic. If urgent action is required, find another method of contact (phone, video message, etc.).
-Do not click on links or websites you don’t recognize. Though an email may be mimicked to be a legit service, the draw is on you clicking on the fraudulent link. This link will likely bring you to a fake website that will download malware. To make sure a link is valid, find it via a search engine. If it’s from AHS or other healthcare websites, it will be easily accessible on any search engine. If you are ever questioning an email from AHS, visit their website here for a legit email you can contact.
-If any message or email asks for personal information it is likely a scam. No bank, healthcare service or legit organization will ever ask to send personal information over the internet. Don’t ever provide your personal information, SIN number, date of birth or any other sensitive information over message or email.
-Remember, any personal information sent over the internet can be sold to other hackers, leading to more scams. Don’t play their game and delete and report any questionable, emails, messages or websites you see.
-Luckily, most email services weed out questionable emails by putting them in a spam folder. Keep in mind, this isn’t always the case.
2. Fake Charities
-Selling of “free” medical products for a small donation.
-Donations to helping those affected by COVID-19.
-Funding bogus research.
-As a lot of these charities will be present in emails or social media asking for donations, it can be overwhelming to tell which one is legit. A lot of these hosting companies (social media) don’t check if a company is legit or not, thus, it’s easy for people to get scammed into forking over money to an illegitimate charity.
-As a good rule of thumb, visit the Canada Revenue Agency here for a list of legit charities.
-If you are unsure if a charity is legit, check for the blue checkmark on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media companies. This checkmark means that the company is a verified company and authentic according to the hosting company’s rules and standards. Avoid giving donations to smaller organizations unless you are certain of their legitimacy.
-Don’t ever be pressured into donating. You can always donate at your convince if you are questioning the company’s intentions.
-Ask friends or family if they have heard of the charity before. If they haven’t, search the company on Google or another search engine and do your own research.
3. Fake Medical Products or Essential Services
-Ads or promotion of selling of home remedies, medicine, tests, vaccinations or essential high-demand items.
-Once credit cards and personal information are obtained online and the item is “sold”, hackers are able to access a suite of sensitive information. In turn, the item never arrives/item never existed to begin with. Or, the product is faulty, expired or incredibly dangerous to use.
-Don’t get roped into fake products. There is no such thing as end all be all medicine. Medication should always be purchased by a certified pharmacy at the discretion of your doctor.
-Bottom line, don’t purchase essential medical products online. There is currently no cure for COVID-19 nor a vaccine or anti-viral medication that is approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada or FDA (Federal Drug Administration). Avoid any product that is too good to be true.
-As COVID-19 testing involves highly expensive machinery and operation by professionals, there is no such thing as COVID-19 home testing or testing outside of AHS.
-It is generally okay to purchase cleaning supplies, gloves or masks online. Just make sure it is from a legit grocery organization. As advised, don’t ever buy second hand.
-As a lot of phone scams are using the same tactics as online scams, the same solutions apply.
1. Fake Test Results/Free Testing
-As scammers can mask their phone numbers with legit organizations, it can be easy to think you are talking to a professional when you actually aren’t.
-Calls are being sent out offering free testing kits or withholding your medical results from a COVID-19 test.
-Even if you haven’t tested for COVID-19, scammers are still trying to widen the net hoping to trick someone who has recently had a test.
-These calls will usually sound like a robot and will ask you to divulge your personal, financial, and healthcare information to obtain the results or the free test kit.
-These scams are also paired with other healthcare needs such as the selling of diabetic monitors, or bogus cures that promise to provide immunity.
-Remember, there is no such thing as free home testing that can be shipped to you. To get accurate testing you need to go to a testing facility outline by AHS.
-Herbal remedies, end all be all cures are one-hundred percent fake and will not cure COVID-19. Don’t fall for this scam.
-Most importantly, AHS or other healthcare providers will never ask for payment or personal information over the phone. These scams are good at pressuring people to give this information up. If you don’t play their game, they will continue to apply the pressure, giving you a hint that you are being scammed.
-Remember, if it really is AHS calling and you still don’t feel comfortable, they won’t pressure you into giving up information. They are always multiple ways to contact healthcare professional whether it’s by phone, email or text.
-Though it goes without being said, if something seems fishy, hang up immediately and report the interaction to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
2. Calls Where Urgent Action is Required
-A lot of scammers are using phone scams to mimic calls from the CRA, or your service providers saying you are going to be cut off from service unless you pay a certain amount now.
-Scammers have mimicked numbers from power companies, rental offices and insurance companies hoping to catch someone at their most vulnerable.
-Furthermore, these scams, like past infamous CRA scams, say there will be a warrant out for your arrest unless you pay the desired amount.
-Other reports have confirmed calls trying to solicit personal information for those who recently went on government insurance due to lost job because of COVID-19.
-These calls will ask to confirm personal information or credit card information so the funds can be deposited “instantly”.
-Remember, government agencies, as well as other service providers, will not ask for your personal information over the phone. If they do and you aren’t sure if it’s them, there are other methods of contact by email, text or by calling their verified phone number.
-If urgent action is truly required it is highly unlikely they will contact you via phone. CRA and the government usually notify citizens via mail if contact is ever required.
-As with AHS, if someone is trying to contact you they will never urge you to give up personal or financial information in a given timeframe. Scammers are not in it for the long game nor do they have the patience. They will give up or become forceful if you do not give up what is desired.
-Like above, hang up if anything feels off, the best way to be protected is by not interacting in the first place.
In a world on edge, it can be easy to give in to avoid unneeded stress and anxiety. Don’t play their game, be patient, confident and keep your wits about you. Remember, if you have been scammed be sure to report it to your local authorities or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre so they can help you and others who have had interactions with scammers. Though you may not get your money back, it’s important to report it to help others from being scammed in the future.
Scams can happen to anyone but with the right care and right practices in mind, this can be highly reduced. Senior Homecare by Angels can identify points of interest and vulnerability in everyday life and provide solutions to keep you safe from scams. Our experienced caregivers and client care services can show you ways to navigate the world wide web in a safe and secure manner.
At Senior Homecare by Angels, we are upholding the proper safety and healthcare measures to keep you safe and free of infection. If you need transportation to doctor’s appointments we are there for you. If you are in isolation or not confident to leave your house, we can deliver groceries, prescriptions or other essentials! Even if you do not have a care staff in your home, we can still help you out remotely.
Feel free to ask any Senior Homecare by Angels caregiver for advice on how best to contact healthcare professionals about information regarding coronavirus.
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AHS Phishing Scams
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre COVID-19 Scams
FCC COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips
COVID-19 Info For Albertans
Government of Canada COVID-19 Fact Sheet
COVID-19 Senior Resources
Alberta’s Response to Scammers
Police Warning About Scams
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