Scam alert: Fraudsters use coronavirus to target victims in Canada

A security guard opens the door for a person entering a COVID-19 assessment facility, Saturday, March 14, 2020 in Ottawa. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

While Canadians continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) is warning the public about coronavirus-related scams impacting the country.

“Fraudsters are creative and want to profit from consumers’ fears, uncertainties and misinformation,” the CAFC said in its bulletin.

There are already several examples of different types of frauds related to COVID-19. The scams you should be aware of include:

  • Scammers pretending to be Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization (WHO) selling fake lists of COVID-19 infected people in your neighbourhood

  • Private companies offering “fast” COVID-19 tests for sale. Only hospitals are currently authorized to perform the tests and no other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results

  • Fraudsters posing as the Public Health Agency of Canada giving false positive COVID-19 results and requesting health card and credit card numbers for a prescription

  • Reselling products at higher prices while Canadians rush to the grocery store to stockpile items

  • Fraudulent online ads offering cleaning products, hand sanitizers and other items in high demand

  • Phishing, spear phishing and other malicious emails that use COVID-19 fears to try to entice Canadians to respond

  • Unsolicited calls, emails and texts giving medical advice or requesting urgent action and payment

  • Scammers going door-to-door offering fake decontamination services

  • Fraudsters posing as police imposing on-the-spot fines to consumers wearing masks, claiming that wearing a mask in public goes against a full-face veil law. It is not illegal to wear a mask for health reasons

  • The sale of fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent the disease

  • Scammers urging people to invest in hot new stocks related to the virus

  • Spoofed government, healthcare or research information

  • Fraudulent charities requesting money for victims or research

  • Scammers posing as cleaning or heating companies offering duct cleaning services or air filters to protect from COVID-19

How to keep yourself safe

The CAFC is urging Canadians to be aware of warning signs that you may be in contact with a coronavirus-related scam.

The latest information on COVID-19 is available through the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization. Both sites should be referenced to verify for accurate information during the outbreak, especially with an increased risk of message from fraudsters spoofing information from government and health organizations.

Although you may feel pressured to purchase items that are flying off grocery and department store shelves, be weary of purchase resale items. These products may be expired, of lower quality and increase your health risks.

Canadians should also verify any charities requesting money before transferring any funds. The charity should be registered.

If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or report online at