Scammers are taking advantage of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) pandemic by sending fraudulent emails and making phone calls that attempt to trick you into revealing your personal information or clicking on malicious links or attachments.

The calls and emails may look and sound authentic. In some versions, the email scams may include logos or branding for the World Health Organization or other government or public health agencies. In another variation of the scam, fraudsters are calling Canadians with requests for donations or offering fraudulent laboratory testing.

How to spot a scam

Email and phone call scams are attempts to have you volunteer your personal information to criminals, including your credit card information. Email scams can also attempt to trick you into installing malware on your computer or mobile device. There are simple steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Be skeptical. Fraudulent e‑mails can look like they come from a real organization. If you have any doubts about an e-mail purporting to contain health information or requesting donations for Canadians affected by COVID‑19, don’t use the toll‑free number, e‑mail address or website address provided because they may link you to the fraudsters. Instead, use contact information that you know is correct. Up‑to‑date information about COVID‑19 can be found on the Public Health Agency of Canada website or on your provincial health agency website.
  • Be cautious. Never send personal and/or financial information by e-mail. And if you didn’t make the call, then you’re not able to verify who is on the line requesting information. Hang up and use a phone number you know is correct.
  • Don’t respond. If you are not comfortable with the questions you are being asked over the phone, do not respond and tell the caller you are end the call to verify it is legitimate from an independent source. No reputable organization will take issue with that. Then call the organization back on a phone number you have looked up yourself. If you think you have provided some of your banking or credit card information to a fraudster, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. and they will advise you on what you should do.
  • Never click on suspicious links or attachments. Phishing emails often include embedded links that look valid, but if you hover over them, you can usually see the real hyperlink. If the hyperlinked address isn’t the same as what appears in the email, it’s probably a phishing attempt. Does the email include an attachment that you weren’t expecting? Never open suspicious attachments.
  • Protect your devices. As always, make sure that your home computer is protected. Install anti-spam, anti‑spyware and anti‑virus software and make sure they are always up to date.

If you receive a phishing email, there are two things you should do: report it and delete it. Reporting a fraudulent email to the organization being spoofed can help prevent other people from being victimized. To report a fraudulent email, be sure to send the email as an attachment.

Resources

The Canadian Anti‑Fraud Centre has compiled a list of the reported scams exploiting COVID‑19.

The government of Canada has information for Canadians about COVID‑19, including a toll‑free phone number and email address here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html.

The COVID Alert application is the Government of Canada’s app for mobile devices to help notify Canadians of potential COVID‑19 exposure.

Visit the CBA website and follow @Cdnbankers on Twitter for more fraud prevention tips.

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