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Every cloud has a silver lining… 

This saying is particularly true for fraudsters and other criminals who are taking advantage of the anxiety generated by the pandemic to exercise their talents as swindlers. These individuals slip into the communications chain by posing as credible organizations, creating fake websites and using all kinds of ploys to achieve their ends.

The other epidemic

For phishing, experts, the pandemic linked to the discovery and spread of COVID-19 is a golden opportunity. With the massive flow of information, announcements, assistance measures, etc., these crooks are capitalizing on the widespread feeling of insecurity to step up their fraudulent activities around the world. This has not gone unnoticed by watchdog organizations and other government agencies, which are increasing their calls for caution.

Creative parasites

These observations are very alarming. For example, in the United States, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that most of the new scams used in March are related to:

  • fake diagnostic tests and fake remedies and vaccines
  • airline reimbursements or financial relief
  • charitable gifts to fake organizations

The same thing is happening in the UK: according to police sources, this type of coronavirus fraud increased by 400% in March. Canada is not immune: the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has received many complaints and listed a dozen typical scams since mid-March.

Social opportunism

Social distancing, the closing of bars and restaurants, layoffs and even telework are fostering the emergence of numerous scams. Fraudsters are at work in all areas, using the telephone, emails, etc. to swindle you. Among the methods reported to the CAFC since last month, many involve posing as representatives of

  • loan, financial services or debt consolidation companies
  • decontamination services or other cleaning businesses
  • various government agencies (programs offered to Canadians, etc.)
  • health promotion agencies and drug sponsors

Add to that romantic scams. In Alberta, for example, the Edmonton police have reported about 20 cases since the start of the year. In just three months, fraudsters have swindled $1.7 million, which represents more than half of the money stolen in all of 2019.

Precautions to take

In this context, how can we protect ourselves and ensure our security? Several government agencies and organizations have issued notices and advice to guard against phishing attempts such as the Get Cyber Safe (@GetCyberSafe) campaign by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. Here is a brief list of the main organizations involved in raising awareness and alerting the public:

Canadian Centre for Cyber Security Everything you need to know to protect yourself and be informed about the latest threats
Canada Revenue Agency Fraud alerts related to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Warnings of potential financial fraud
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Fraud alerts and reporting
Government of Canada Portal for complete information on all the measures and services related to COVID-19


Secure clicks

To avoid scams, Professionals’ Financial reminds you of the following do’s and don’ts:

  • Open or reply to suspicious emails
  • Click on a link or an email attachment
  • Give confidential or personal information to anyone by email or by phone
  • Confirm the identity of the person or company concerned before answering
  • Verify if there are any fraud alerts in effect on dedicated sites
  • Forward a suspicious message to the organization targeted by the criminals
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