As with any major event, fraudsters and scammers have found ways to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. While fraudsters and scammers are quick to adapt their methods to take advantage of a crisis, FCNB reminds New Brunswickers that carefulness is key. Monitor for the red flags of fraud, which remain consistent regardless of the fraud or scam. Ask questions and think seriously before making financial or purchasing decisions. These are the best defenses from being victimized by a con artist or from making a decision that isn’t in your best interest.
Protect yourself. Beware of:
- Coronavirus-related investment scams from companies claiming to have products or services that will prevent, detect or cure COVID-19 infection. The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued a news release warning investors about pump-and-dump schemes.
- Scam artists using fear around the current economic conditions to steal an investor’s money. The CSA is urging investors contacted by anyone with warnings about their investments or finances to refrain from giving out any personal information. Read more here.
- Potentially fraudulent ads offering opportunities to work from home as securities traders during the pandemic without any former experience or a licence and the benefit of keeping a large percentage of profits. In Canada, anyone in the business of trading securities must be registered with their provincial or territorial securities regulator, unless an exemption applies. In New Brunswick, an individual must be registered with FCNB to act as a dealer or adviser.
- Door-to-door sales from people selling household decontamination services. In New Brunswick, door-to-door sales are currently prohibited under the province’s Declaration of a State of Emergency and Mandatory Order.
- Spoofed government, healthcare or research information. If it seems sensational, it probably is. Help prevent online misinformation by consulting trustworthy sources.
Visit: Health Canada’s COVID-19 updates
Visit: New Brunswick’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health coronavirus webpage
- Unsolicited calls, emails and texts giving medical advice or requesting urgent action or payment. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) warns:
- If you didn't initiate contact, you don't know who you're communicating with.
- Never respond or click on suspicious links and attachments.
- Never give out your personal or financial details.
- Ill-intentioned people using the opportunity to tug at your heart strings and scam you out of “charitable donations.”
- Don’t be pressured into making a donation.
- Verify that a charity is registered here.
- High-priced or low-quality products purchased in bulk by consumers and resold for profit. The CAFC warns items may be expired and/or dangerous to your health.
- Questionable offers, such as: miracle cures, herbal remedies, vaccinations and faster testing.
- Fake and deceptive online ads, selling:
- Cleaning products
- Hand sanitizers
- Other items in high demand
- People posing as cleaning or heating companies, offering duct cleaning services or air filters to protect from COVID-19.
- Emails or calls from people pretending to be from your local or provincial electrical utility threatening to disconnect your power for non-payment.
- Emails or calls from people pretending to be from the Public Health Agency of Canada saying falsely you have tested positive for COVID-19 in an attempt to trick you into confirming your health card and credit card numbers for a prescription.
- Emails, texts or calls from people pretending to be from the Canadian Red Cross or other known charities offering free medical products (masks) for a donation. Do not click on the link or respond.
- Private companies offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale. Only healthcare providers can perform these tests.
- Phishing emails from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Province of New Brunswick’s Public Health office and other reputable emails. Do not click on the link or respond.
- Spoofed emails targeting employees working from home during the pandemic. Watch out for:
- Spoofed messaging from your human resources department asking for personal information or to click a link
- Spoofed messaging from your IT department asking for credentials or emails with attachments.
- Spoofed meeting invites
- Spoofed package delivery notifications
- Spoofed email account password resets
- Organizational spear phishing attacks
- Purchases and invoice spoofing
- Spoofing of file sharing services such as Dropbox, OneDrive, SharePoint, WeTransfer, Sharefile and WorkSpaces.
- Emails, text messages and phone calls encouraging seniors to apply for COVID-19 government benefits.
- A version of the CRA scam where fraudsters posing as CRA officials claim your “provincial medical benefits” have or are running out and you need to send money to reinstate them or to buy private medical insurance.
- Canada Post / UPS delivery frauds. You may receive a telephone call saying you have a package ready to be delivered, but you need to pay duty or shipping first.
- Fake bank messages asking for your social insurance number and account information so you can receive government funds due to COVID-19 through direct deposit.
- Community helping scams where the fraudster claims they are representing a group trying to help socially isolated seniors. In some instances, these callers are predators who are trying to identify vulnerable seniors to financially exploit them or steal their personal information. IMPORTANT NOTE: Legitimate organizations are reaching out to vulnerable seniors during the COVID-19 crisis. To ensure you are speaking to a reputable one, research the organization before providing any personal information. Contact your municipality or other local service providers to see if they are familiar with the organization.
- Romance scams through social media and online dating sites, targeting seniors who may be feeling lonely as a result of being isolated during the pandemic and are spending more time socializing online.
- A version of the grandparent scam where the caller pretending to be a grandchild claims to be stuck overseas and can’t get home because of COVID-19 restrictions, but can — with enough money — book a special flight home.
- Scam artists trying to get personal information by using known brands, asking you to fill out surveys pretending to be a popular drug store or looking for address details while posing as a well-known delivery company.
- Inheritance scams where the fraudster claims to be a lawyer representing a couple who has passed away due to COVID-19, leaving a large sum of money with no beneficiary. Remember to be wary of emails and texts requesting personal information to receive payments of any kind.
- Fake recruiters gathering personal information for a job offer during the pandemic. If a recruiter asks for your personal information, do some research into the recruiter themselves to see if they are legitimate. Also, be cautious of employment opportunities that ask for deposits or payments to secure a job.
- Scammers posing as your boss, friend or acquaintance, asking you to buy gift cards for them. This practice is usually suspicious, even during a crisis like a pandemic. Read more here.
Be alert to COVID-19 scams. Learn to spot the Red Flags of Fraud. Follow FCNB on Facebook for regular updates on current frauds circulating in New Brunswick and subscribe to our email alerts on scams targeting New Brunswickers.