For many of us COVID-19 has increased our anxiety and fear, and scammers are taking advantage of the uncertainty and misinformation. There are several sophisticated COVID-19 related scams reported in Canada. Here is what you need to know to protect yourself.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) warns Canadians to beware of Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) scams stating there is new information on CERB, that the recipient received a deposit, or that information is needed to receive the deposit.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warns fraudsters are posing as financial services and advisors, cleaning or heating companies, government health agencies, and Red Cross and other charities.
These scams are received by phone, emails, and texts.
It’s important to know
- Be cautious when you receive communication from CRA by phone, mail or email
- CRA will NEVER text you or use instant messaging like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp
- Scammers use threats and coercive language to scare people into paying fake debt
- Fake CRA websites are used to collect personal information
- Financial institutions will never ask you to provide personal, login or account information by text or email
Tips to protect yourself from fraud
- If you didn’t initiate contact, you don’t know who is contacting you. It is OK to verify their identity before proceeding. Ask for the caller’s name, work section, and office location before contacting CRA to verify
- Keep your, SIN, CRA access codes, user ID, passwords, and PINs secret
- Monitor your tax accounts by registering for My Account or My Business Account
- Be careful when you receive unsolicited or suspicious emails, and avoid clicking on links or attachments in these emails
- Never give out your personal or financial information by email or text
- Install anti-virus software on your computer and keep your operating system up to date
BC Hydro warns of a 350% increase in attempted scams, with over 500 being reported since announcing its COVID-19 Relief Fund on April 1.
There are two types of BC Hydro scams to know about.
Phone and email scam: Customers receive automated calls or fake bill notification emails from fraudsters posing as BC Hydro employees, threatening disconnection for an overdue bill. Customers are asked to call a 1-877 number to make a payment, and the number connects to a replica of BC Hydro’s phone system. Fraudsters then ask the customer to purchase pre-paid credit cards or deposit money into a bitcoin ATM wallet to avoid disconnection.
Phishing scam: Customers receive a text message that appears to be from BC Hydro, indicating that they are eligible for a refund. Customers are directed to click a link to submit their banking information for deposit.
BC Hydro wants its customers to know disconnections for non-payment are suspended during the pandemic.
BC Hydro does NOT:
- collect credit card or bank account information by phone, email or text
- accept payment via pre-paid cash or credit cards, or bitcoin ATM
- offer refunds or credits through Interac e-transfer
Need to talk to someone about the authenticity of an email, text, or phone call?
Canada Revenue Agency: 1-833-966-2099 to speak to an agent about Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
Canada Anti-Fraud Centre for information on all fraud in Canada
BC Hydro: 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224-9376)
Trusted resources and advice on COVID-19
- Refer to Government of Canada COVID-19 health, financial and security resources
- Refer to Financial Consumer Agency of Canada COVID-19 information
- Reference the latest health information from these legitimate sources:
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Public Health Agency of Canada)
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization)