In recent weeks, there has been an increase in scam activity. To help you stay safe, today we’re sharing some information from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre on how to recognize a scam and what to do if you encounter one.  

So, what does a scam look like? 

Scams can be extremely diverse in their packaging and in their targets. You can encounter them online, in person, on the phone, by email, by text or on any other channel of communication. Scammers can target anyone, regardless of demographic.  

While there is no typical blueprint for a scam, they do sometimes share some common traits. Usually, a scammer aims to get your money and/or personal information. They often do this by exploiting your emotions (they may use urgency, fear and other negative gut-reactions) and/or by assuming the identity of a normally trusted contact or organization.   

Right now, scams could look like any of the following: 

  • Fraudulent texts, emails or calls offering COVID-19 financial help or offering medical equipment (i.e. masks): 
    • Scammers may provide a link to a website that looks legitimate for you to enter your personal financial information. 
  • A fraudulent COVID-19 informational website popup: 
    • Clicking unknown links might open your computer up to viruses, malware or hackers. 
  • A call from a scammer impersonating a charity looking for COVID-19 donations, or an email from a scammer impersonating a family member that needs help due to COVID-19: 
    • If you didn’t initiate contact, you don’t know who you’re talking to.  

It’s important to know that the above isn’t an exhaustive list—scams can be varied and can target a variety of people in a variety of ways. The Anti-Fraud Centre also has a scam list you can look through for more examples and information. Although this is not a comprehensive list, it may help to give you a sense of what to look for.   

What to do to keep yourself safe from scams and fraud:   

We’ve highlighted a few strategies from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre that we think will be most helpful to you during this time, but you can also check out a complete list of fraud prevention tips on their website. 
 
Don’t give out personal information 

Someone asking you for personal information, especially if they initiated contact, could be a scammer. Some common targets are any combination of your name, address, birth date, Social Insurance Number, financial information, etc. 

Beware of upfront fees 

If you’re being asked to pay fees in advance of receiving goods, (especially if they contact you) you should proceed with caution; often this is a strategy to get you to disclose personal or financial information. 

Don’t be afraid to say no 

Tactics that invoke urgency, pressure or ask you to make a quick decision often signal that something is off. If you feel that an interaction might be playing off your emotions, you may wish to: 

  • Ask them to send you the information in writing.
  • Or simply end the conversation (i.e. by hanging up). 

Do your research 

Verify that the organization, business or person you’re dealing with is legitimate, and that they are who they say they are—especially if they’ve contacted you. 

  • Cross check contact information with reputable sources. 
  • If you receive a call from another family member in trouble, it might be helpful to cross check with the rest of your family. 

Protect your computer 

Scams are becoming increasingly prevalent online. Some things you can do to be discerning while online include: 

  • Be wary of any urgent and eye-catching messages that pop up online—do not follow links, click on these ads or use the contacts that they may provide.  
    • Some websites will try and install programs (usually malware or viruses) without your knowledge.  
  • Keep up with operating system updates and have anti-virus software installed. 

Trust your gut  

If something just doesn’t feel right, don’t dismiss the feeling. It never hurts to get more information from a reliable source, before you act. As the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre states: “If it seems too good to be true, it is.”  

What to do if you encounter a scam: 

  • If you think you’ve identified a scam or fraud you can report it by contacting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.  
    • You can call them at 1-888-495-8501 Monday through Friday, 10am-4:45pm EST (that’s 7am-1:45pm PST). 
    • Or fill out an online form through their Fraud Reporting System
  • If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, report it (using the contacts above) and contact your local police. 

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Look through all of our COVID-19 related information on our website.     

This is an evolving situation and information is changing all the time, so go to the source for updated information.   

Where do we fit in?  Yes, we are a provincial regulator. We are responsible for some very specific transactions in BC. We aren’t experts on COVID-19. We won’t – and shouldn’t – ever give medical or legal advice. But we are in a unique circumstance right now and we want to help people navigate the current reality. We don’t have all the answers, but we will do our best to share information from reliable sources, put it in ways that are easy to digest and understand, provide referrals and help you navigate this situation.   
 
About Consumer Protection BC:  We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.