COVID-19 scam reports and victims are both on the increase

There’s no shortage of unscrupulous people taking advantage of the pandemic to defraud others

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the door for scammers, who are targeting Canadians with a variety of shady “deals” as they spend more time online. In March and April 2020, the Better Business Bureau saw an increase in reports about COVID-19 scams. More worryingly, almost 60 per cent of those reporting scams said that they had lost money — an average of almost $75 per person — and/or had divulged personal and banking information when they filled out application forms that turned out to be fake.

Almost 50 per cent of the COVID-19 scams reported were encountered on a website, the majority of which were created in the past three months. The sites purport to sell sought-after items such as face masks and sanitizers, as well as fake COVID-19 vaccines and cures, discounted travel vacations, gym equipment, video streaming subscriptions, and even pets.

Some of the sites are designed to look like those of government departments, to lure in Canadians trying to apply for various COVID-19 benefits, while others impersonate legitimate businesses.

Social media sites are also helping with the spread of COVID-19 scams, including “investment opportunities” (many of which are illegal pyramid schemes) and listings for home and apartment rentals that turn out to be fake. People between the ages of 35 and 54 have the highest exposure and susceptibility rates.

The BBB is warning people to double-check links and websites found in text messages and emails, as well as those shared on social media. To avoid becoming a victim, here are a few ways to stay safe and not fall prey to pandemic profiteers:

Only buy from reputable stores and websites: The best way to avoid getting scammed is to buy directly from a seller you already know and trust through having dealt with them in the past.

Be sure the online store has working contact information: If a company or business is new to you, make sure it is legitimate before divulging personal information such as your name, address, and credit card information. Does it have a real street address (not just a P.O. box), working phone numbers and email addresses, and links that work? If not, pass it by.

Educate yourself on the requirements for federal and provincial support: The federal and provincial governments have launched a host of benefit and aid programs for Canadian individuals and businesses. If you’re not sure whether something is legitimate, visit the Government of Canada and/or the Government of British Columbia websites for the latest updates and ways to claim assistance. If you are asked to pay a fee to access “free” financial aid, walk away. If you have to pay to claim it, it isn’t free.

Be wary of unsolicited text messages, emails, phone calls, or messages via social media: Government agencies do not communicate through these channels. Scammers will contact you out of the blue and impersonate the government by asking basic questions under the guise of seeing if you qualify for a grant or program. A common feature of these scams is someone telling you that you need to provide banking information so that they can collect a one-time “processing fee” before depositing your money.

If something sounds suspicious, confirm it by calling the company directly or checking the company website: Do not click on links or open attachments in an unexpected email, especially one offering jobs or advertising job vacancies. Type the URL for the company into your browser or do a web search to find the right website.

If you have spotted a scam where fraudsters are impersonating local businesses to deceive consumers, report it to Your report can prevent others from being victimized.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greens, Liberals, NDP field Fraser-Nicola candidates ahead of October election

Incumbent Jackie Tegart has two opposing candidates after snap election called Monday

Work has started on 20 units of seniors’ housing in Clinton

Much-delayed project has been in the works for almost a decade

Cache Creek firefighters plan bigger, better Halloween fireworks

‘With so much uncertainty in the world it’s nice to know that one community event is staying intact’

Volunteers welcome at this year’s Black Powder Desert Rendezvous

Plus farmers’ markets, an art show, a bottle drive, a Fire Prevention Week contest, and more

Ashcroft looks into hiring bylaw officer with Cache Creek, Clinton

Funding available to help communities hire bylaw during COVID-19 state of emergency

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

COVID-19 exposure at Merritt pub

The exposure happened on Sept. 19 at the pub of the Coldwater Hotel

Four more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 31 active cases in isolation in the health region

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Most Read