How to Avoid COVID Scams & Promote Online Safety
Since the start of the global pandemic, scammers have increased their activity by taking advantage of people in the hardest of times. With a world of unknowns, victims have become easier targets for everything from puppy adoption scams to scary tax fraud scams to even COVID vaccine scams.
Knowledge is power when preventing scam attacks and promoting online safety, so BCSLA is covering what a COVID scam is and how to recognize one.
What is a COVID Scam?
Identifying a scam is one of the most important lines of defense against scammers. The first step of online safety is not to panic and always take your time before reacting. Once you are calm, you will be able to better identify the scam.
Here are the types of scams to keep an eye out for:
Using official-looking email addresses, logos, and language, scammers will send emails to a list of targets posing as your bank, an online store, a criminal investigator, CRA, the government, or any other well-known company.
With these emails, they will either request you to follow a link, have an attachment full of malicious hacking software, or instruct you to call a number where they will proceed to layout instructions. There is also a subcategory of phishing emails called spearphishing, where scammers will specifically target you by pretending to be a family member or friend looking for help.
Like phishing, vishing will have an individual contact you by phone, posing as your bank, online store, criminal investigator, CRA, government, or other well-known company. These scams are especially dangerous as we tend to naturally trust someone when we hear their voice. Sometimes, these targeted scams will even use artificial intelligence to impersonate someone’s voice that you recognize.
Again, another version of phishing but by text message. As more businesses use text message to contact customers on updates or for customer service claims, it has opened an opportunity for scammers to impersonate companies like FedEx or government departments like customs.
Fake Social Profiles
A common scam you may be familiar with, where scammers will create fake social media accounts to trick people into a con. In this situation, they may ask for personal information or money.
Quid Pro Quo
A common term you may have heard before, quid pro quo can be used on any medium and essentially poses a benefit for you, when in reality it is a way to get money or personal information from you.
Just like the puppy breeding scam mentioned above, a scammer will cleverly trick you into giving up money in exchange for a service, product, or negotiation. In some cases, you may even be the one selling a used item, and they will use electronic transfer companies to steal your money.
Recognizing a COVID Scam
Now that you know what types of scams are out there, it’s time to learn how to recognize one. This can be tricky as scammers have years of conning under their belt, making them professional tricksters. Here are some tips for identifying a COVID scam:
They text or email you about something important. The government will never text or email you unless you have opted to receive this type of communication via text message or email. Many organizations will call you directly if it is an urgent sensitive matter.
Contact the organization through another trusted medium. If you’re unsure of their legitimacy, contact the company through another way to verify their identity with another person.
If they request personal information. If you are contacted asking for your social insurance number, bank account information, or other private information, be wary. Most of the time, there are more legitimate ways for a business to request this information from you.
The request appears “fun” by using a quiz or game. Over the years, scammers have gotten smarter at getting your information through fun activities like quizzes or games. Never participate in a quiz or game on social media, by email, or another channel.
The key to protecting yourself against COVID scams is being up to date and knowledgeable about online safety. Keep an eye on the Government of Canada’s website for updates on ongoing scams across Canada.
The British Columbia Seniors Living Association and the senior living industry have shown to be leaders in resilience during this pandemic and will continue to do so.