COVID-19: Beware of fraudsters taking advantage


COVID-19: Beware of fraudsters – In times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it often brings out the best in people. However, it also brings out the worst in people – those who try to take advantage of the the situation for their personal gain. Focusing on people’s fear of the unknown, they target the vulnerable with services, goods, false information and even ‘fast COVID-19 tests for sale’. Our senior population is most at risk to the schemes, but also the general population who in desperation become easy prey for them. Call them what-you-may; crooks, lowlifes, thieves, pilfers or other apt words – they are all the same.

There have also been reports of people being gouged by sellers on online-classified advertising sites. Kijiji Canada had to temporarily ban listings for surgical masks, hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes and toilet paper. In a message on their site they wrote, ‘We have been monitoring the community response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada – based on user feedback and to curb pricing practices that run counter to the community-minded spirit of Kijiji’. On Facebook Marketplace, some people were selling small bottles of hand sanitizer for as high as $500. People have reported prices for a case of toilet paper on Craigslist for as high as $100+ and Amazon Canada announced it would be cracking down on resellers and will continue to actively monitor and remove offers violating their policies.

COVID-19: Beware of fraudsters

Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre put out an alert to warn people of fraudsters wanting to profit from consumers’ fears, uncertainties and misinformation. As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, they ask people to be on the lookout for associated scams:

COVID-19: Beware of fraudsters – Examples of COVID-19 fraud

  • Private companies offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale, only hospitals can perform the tests. No other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results.
  • Consumers are purchasing large amounts of products and reselling them at higher prices. These products may be expired, of lower quality and dangerous to your health.
  • Fraudsters have been going door-to-door offering fake decontamination services.
  • The Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration in the United States have warned of companies selling fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent the disease. The United States has not approved any such products. The unapproved drugs threaten public health and violate federal laws.
  • Fraudsters posing as police have been imposing on-the-spot fines to consumers wearing masks. They claim that wearing a mask in public goes against a full-face veil law. It is not illegal to wear a mask for health reasons.
  • Fraudsters may urge you to invest in hot new stocks related to the disease.
  • Fraudsters are sending phishing, spear phishing and other malicious email campaigns that capitalize on the public’s fears about Covid-19.
  • Fraudsters are creating fraudulent and deceptive online ads. These ads may offer: cleaning products, hand sanitizers and other items in high demand.

How to protect yourself from Covid-19 fraudsters

  • Beware of high-priced or low-quality products.
  • Beware of unsolicited medical advisory emails with links or attachments.

Fraudsters may spoof the information of government and health care organizations:

  • Beware of: miracle cures, herbal remedies, questionable offers, such as vaccinations, faster tests, etc.
  • Beware of unauthorized or fraudulent charities requesting money for victims or research.
  • Don’t be pressured into making a donation, verify that a charity is registered.

If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or report online.

INTERPOL has also put an alert on COVID-19 fraud schemes:

Scams linked to the virus include: Telephone fraud – criminals call victims pretending to be clinic or hospital official, who claim that a relative of the victim has fallen sick with the virus and request payments for medical treatment. Phishing – emails claiming to be from national or global health authorities, with the aim of tricking victims to provide personal credentials or payment details, or to open an attachment containing malware. In many cases, the fraudsters impersonate legitimate companies, using similar names, websites and email addresses in their attempt to trick unsuspecting members of the public, even reaching out proactively via emails and messages on social media platforms.

Be wary if asked to make a payment to a bank account located in a different country than where the company is located. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, alert your bank immediately so the payment can be stopped. Do not click on links or open attachments that you were not expecting to receive, or come from an unknown sender. Be wary of unsolicited emails offering medical equipment or requesting your personal information for medical checks – legitimate health authorities do not normally contact the general public in this manner.

As stated at the beginning of this article, in times of crisis it can also bring out the worst in people. Be smart, verify information and do not take a chance if you are uncertain. Mostly, stay healthy, protect yourself and others and reach out to those who may need your help during this unprecedented event.

By: Bonnie Wurst –

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