OPP warning of scams during pandemic

"Fraudsters are taking advantage of citizens' fear during uncertain times"

ORILLIA – The OPP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) are again warning Ontarians about scams.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread across Ontario and Canada, fraudsters are taking advantage of citizens’ fear during uncertain times,” states an April 15 press release from the OPP.

“Fraudsters are exploiting this pandemic to facilitate fraud through cybercrime and any other means to obtain your information.”

Officials say most scams involve some sort of urgency – often medically related – to capitalize on anxiety and gain information.

“From spoofed government, healthcare or research companies to unsolicited calls, emails and texts giving medical advice or requesting urgent personal information, scammers are looking at gaining information about you during these times,” states the OPP press release.

According to the CAFC, some of the more popular scams involve:

  • cleaning or heating companies;
  • offering duct cleaning services or air filters to protect from COVID-19;
  • local and provincial hydro/electrical power companies;
  • threatening to disconnect your power for non-payment;
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization;
  • offering fake lists for sale of COVID-19 infected people in your neighbourhood;
  • Public Health Agency of Canada;
  • giving false results saying you have been tested positive for COVID-19;
  • tricking you into confirming your health card and credit card numbers for a prescription;
  • Red Cross and other known charities; 
  • offering free medical products (e.g. masks) for a donation;
  • sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails;
  • pressuring people to invest in hot new stocks related to the disease;
  • offering financial aid and/or loans to help you get through the shut downs;
  • selling fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent the disease; and
  • offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale (only health care providers can perform the tests – no other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results).

If you were using your computer when you were scammed, it’s possible a virus or malicious software was installed on your computer,” officials say.

“Run a full system check using reliable security software. If you do not have security software such as virus scanners and a firewall installed on your computer, a trusted computer professional can help you choose what you need.”

Scammers may have also gained access to your online passwords or other personal information. Change these using a secure computer.

If you paid someone by credit card or through an electronic funds transfer, contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately. They may be able to stop or reverse the transaction.

If you or someone you know suspect they’ve been a victim of a COVID 19 related scam or any other scam, contact your local police service. You can file a complaint through the CAFC website or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.