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Scams and Misinformation during COVID-19

Mar 31, 2020 3 minute read

Scams and Misinformation during COVID-19

The past few weeks have been a stressful and scary time. The majority of Canadians have been helping each other out during these times of uncertainty. Unfortunately, some people may use times like these to take advantage of others through scams, fraud and misinformation.

Here are a few things you should be on the lookout for:

1. Unsolicited calls, emails or texts

If you receive an unexpected call, email or text from someone you don’t recognize, you should be immediately suspicious! If the sender is asking offering medical advice or asking for money you should be especially cautious.

You should not respond to these types of messages. If it is a call, hang up. If it is an email or text, do not click on any links and delete the message.

Keep your personal and financial information private to help prevent fraudsters taking advantage of you.

2. If it’s too good to be true…

Be suspicious of anyone offering a miracle cure to COVID-19. Anyone selling a herbal remedy, vaccine or faster testing is most likely a fraudster. There is currently no vaccine for this virus.

3. Calls from charities

There are many worthwhile charities who need help during this time. There are also people who know this and are taking advantage. If you receive a call or other message from someone claiming to work for a charitable organization, do not be pressured into making a donation.

If you would like to donate to a charity, most organizations enable you to do so online, directly through their website. You can make sure the charity is legitimate through a simple search on Canada Revenue Agency’s website.

4. Re-selling necessities

Here in Canada, we are not in danger of running out of necessities like food. However, some people have been panic buying things like pasta, canned food and toilet paper. Some are even going a step further and buying these products in bulk so they can sell them at a higher price.

There is no reason to purchase necessities from an untrustworthy source. These products may even be expired or dangerous to your health.

Reported scams and frauds

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has noted several reported frauds and scams specific to COVID-19. Here is a list to look out for:

  • Heating and cleaning companies who offer duct cleaning services or air filters to protect against COVID- 19
  • Hydro companies threatening to disconnect power for non-payment
  • Any public health organization offering to sell a list of people in your neighbourhood who are infected with COVID-19
  • Any public health organization saying you have tested positive for COVID-19
  • Red Cross or other charities offering free medical products such as masks in exchange for a donation
  • Financial advisors pressuring you to invest in new stocks related to COVID or offering financial assistance
  • Door to door salespeople selling household decontamination services
  • Private companies offering COVID-19 tests. Note that only a health care provider can test for COVID-19. Any other tests are unreliable and may even be unsafe.

Misinformation during COVID-19

Many people are sharing information about COVID-19, and it’s not always coming from a reliable source.

According to the Canadian Journalism Foundation:

  • 90 per cent of Canadians have fallen for fake news at least once
  • Rumours spread six times faster than the truth online
  • Only one in three of us regularly confirm if the news we see is real

Everyone is susceptible to misinformation. Here are a few things you can do and questions you can ask yourself to make sure what you’re reading is accurate:

  • Does what you’re reading have evidence to support what it’s saying?
  • Try copying and pasting key messages from the story into Google to see what other people are saying.
  • If there are spelling and grammar mistakes, it’s probably not a reliable source.
  • Don’t just read the headline! Read the story itself to see what it’s really about.
  • Check the date of the story. Old news might be inaccurate.

Who can we trust?

With so much information out there, it can be hard to know what’s real and what’s fake. For reliable information during this time, look to Canada’s Public Health Agency or the World Health Organization. Both of these sources have up-to-date and reliable information about COVID-19.

Don’t forget that most people out there are good! There is a small minority of people out there trying to take advantage. Exercise caution and be careful of what you read. We will get through this together.