Beware Text Scam About Emergency Response Benefit, Trudeau Says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on March 26, 2020. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on March 26, 2020. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is warning Canadians that scammers are sending text messages purporting to be from the federal government offering cash to address the COVID-19 crisis.

“I’m sorry to say there appears to be a text scam going around on the new Emergency Response Benefit,” Trudeau said, at his daily press conference outside his Ottawa residence Thursday.

“I want to remind everyone that the government’s website is the best place to find reliable information on everything that we’re doing.”

CP24 journalist Cristina Tenaglia shared a screenshot on social media of a text scam telling Canadians to click a link to receive a direct deposit of $1,375.50.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a key element in the federal government’s $107-billion aid package to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 storm, will provide $2,000 a month in direct assistance from the Canada Revenue Agency, for a maximum of four months, for workers whose income has dropped to zero because of the pandemic.

The government has said the online portal to apply for the benefit is expected to be up and running by early April with payments to start flowing two weeks later.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said the measure will allow struggling companies to temporarily lay off workers with the knowledge that they will still have money in their pockets.

“What we’re doing is ensuring that we enable people to bridge through this very difficult time,” Morneau told a press conference in Ottawa Wednesday. “So they have the resources they need for themselves and their families.”

Morneau took to Twitter Thursday to make clear that the government is not sending out text messages about the benefit.

“If you have received a text message regarding the benefit, do not click the link,” he said.

At a press conference earlier this week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also warned that fraudsters are attempting to use the novel coronavirus crisis to obtain the credit card information of Albertans, both on the Internet and by phone.

Kenney said people received calls from schemers pretending to be from Alberta Health Services, telling them they have the virus and goading them to turn over credit card data.

“To those who are trying to exploit seniors and others during this time of a public health emergency, there must be a special place in hell for people like that. Just stop it,” Kenney said. “It is completely un-Canadian. It is un-Albertan. It is unacceptable.”

Watch: Trudeau says fines, arrests possible for violating quarantine orders

Last week, the federal government did send text messages with consular support information to Canadians stuck abroad during the pandemic, with the cooperation of the country’s top telecommunications service providers, urging them to register with the government so they could be informed of any repatriation efforts.

With files from The Canadian Press

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