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Ontario Provincil Police Serious Fraud Office

The Ontario Provincial Police Serious Fraud Office is responsible for investigating cases of serious fraud and complex financial crimes. Constable Erin Fraser and Constable Lisa Cruz from the Crime Prevention Team at the Serious Fraud Office want to educate communities across Ontario about current scams and how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud.

ONTARIO’S CURRENT FRAUD TRENDS AND HOW THEY WORK

The standard frauds are still occurring in Ontario, but over the past few months fraudsters have been exploiting the current public health crisis and are coming up with new ways to steal your money or personal information every day. Fraudsters are using a few things to their advantage:

First, many people are still isolated and often alone and don’t have the same support systems around them like they usually do. Second, everyone is on their devices and online even more than usual. Many may be more inclined to click on email or text message links and since people have spent more time than usual at home, they may be inclined to do home renovations or enticed by great deals for big ticket items advertised online. Third, many people fear getting the virus or giving it to others and it’s possible to get caught up in the hype of buying pandemic-related items, especially online. Finally, unfortunately many people’s jobs and personal finances have been affected. An opportunity to make money or obtain a loan may be appealing for people who are trying to support themselves or their family in this difficult time.

SCAMS RELATED TO COVID-19

The OPP work closely with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). The CAFC collect information on fraud and identity theft and are a great resource for information on past and current scams affecting Canadians. The CAFC maintains a list of reported COVID-19 related frauds on their website that anyone can visit. To see the full list you can visit: (https://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm)

Below are a few COVID-19 scams that everyone should watch out for.

CLICKING LINKS OR ATTACHMENTS

Scammers are sending emails and text messages that appear to be from legitimate businesses. These messages are advising that your account has become inactive due to COVID-19 and requesting that you to click a link to update important personal information. 

  • Do not click these links, the scammer wants your personal and financial information and this could possibly infect your device with malware. 

WORKING FROM HOME

Scams being presented as work-from-home opportunities are being sent to potential victims. They are offered a job promising easy money with little effort. Then they are asked to receive money and told to transfer the money to another account, keeping a portion of the money as a payment.  In other cases, a scammer may request you to send money to the account of someone who is fighting COVID-19.

  • This is a scam and you become a ‘money mule’ by making these transfers, which is a term used when someone has been used to transfer stolen money on behalf of another person.

LOAN AND FINANCIAL SERVICE COMPANIES

Loan scams are increasing as people try to get back on their feet after being out of work during the pandemic.  Fraudsters have been posing as bank officials, loan specialists or government agents offering loans, debt consolidation and financial assistance.

  • If you need a loan or financial assistance, visit your bank or financial institution and do your own research.  If you did not reach out for assistance, you don’t know who you are dealing with.  Do not trust unsolicited offers.    

QUESTIONABLE OFFERS

Scammers are looking to take advantage of you by offering fast COVID-19 test kits being sold by a private company. Similar to cleaning products and Miracle Oils claiming to protect you from the virus, these tests may not be genuine.

  • There are testing opportunities in your community if you feel you need to be tested or have COVID-19 symptoms.

FAKE TEST RESULTS

Fraudsters are looking catch you off guard with a phone call, posing as someone from a public health agency. They will say that you have tested positive for COVID-19. These scammers trick you into providing personal information such as your health card and credit card numbers.

  • If you receive this type of call, take a few minutes to ask yourself if you are waiting for test results.  These fraudsters will create a sense of urgency to make you act quickly. Don’t provide personal or financial information on an unsolicited call.  If you recently had a test, you can also check for your results online.

INCREDIBLE DEALS

Keep an eye out for large ticket items being advertised online at incredible deals. In reality, these items are not delivered or are delivered but are of poor quality.

  • Be careful when shopping online.  Shop on reputable, secure websites and read product and seller reviews.

CLAIMING LEGITIMACEY 

Reports of fraudsters claiming to be from legitimate organizations such as the World Health Organization, requesting donations to help fight COVID-19.

  • It is recommended that if you wish to make a donation to a charity or other organization, thoroughly do your research before providing any money or personal information.  Find reputable causes and websites on your own rather than one provided to you in an unsolicited manner.

TIPS ON HOW YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF

  • Beware of unsolicited calls, emails and texts requesting urgent action or payment.
  • Slow things down and don’t be afraid to say no or hang up the phone.
  • Never give out any personal information or financial details online or over the phone. Remember, if you didn’t initiate the call, you don’t know who you are really talking to.
  • Take a second to look closely at the email address used, most businesses have personalized domains and scammers often use ones that are very close to legitimate ones but they won’t be exactly the same.
  • Do your research before donating or purchasing items. You can verify Canadian charities with the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Beware of upfront fees as they are a red flag for a scam
  • If you receive funds for any reason from an unknown person or company, and they ask you to forward it elsewhere, don't, you could become a money mule.
  • Consider unsolicited phone calls, emails and text messages as possible scammers.

HOW DO YOU REPORT A FRAUD?

Fraud can happen to anyone, especially during a time where many people are so vulnerable. The Serious Fraud Office encourages everyone to report any incident online or by phone to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and to their local police service.
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Contact:
Phone: 1-888-495-8501

Online: https://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/report-signalez-eng.htm
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