Tips: How to protect yourself from COVID-19 technology scams

Scam 3 You receive a text message on your mobile phone from what appears to be an emergency response COVID-19 support agency purporting to have sent you relief funds to assist you during this financial crisis. This is a texting scam called “smishing.” Tip Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a warning about texting scams that attempt to lure unsuspecting Canadians with messages about COVID-19 support (see CBC news: “Trudeau warns of COVID-19 text scam exploiting new emergency benefit program”). Protect yourself, and be wary of text messages from unknown or suspicious senders. In fact, don’t click on any link unless you have a reasonable basis to trust it, or it is a well- known website of an established organization (i.e., Government of Canada, World Health Organization, etc.). If you are unsure if the website you are visiting is linked to an established or well-recognized organization, conduct research. Copy the link or website address of the organization in question directly into your web browser to ensure it is legitimate. If you were not expecting the text message, it is most likely not real and is an attempt to infect your mobile phone or device with a virus—again making your phone or device inaccessible. The text message could also be an attempt to access unauthorized sensitive information. Don’t reply to the text message and delete it immediately.


Scam 4 You receive a call on your phone, supposedly from your local municipal government soliciting donations to help combat the COVID-19 crisis. As a business, you may also get calls from scammers trying to exploit your vulnerability due to the financial fallout of the crisis by offering you first aid supplies or a bailout loan. Tip This is a form of social engineering fraud or scam called “vishing“ and it is a fraud tactic that tricks individuals into revealing financial or personal information. In fact, this occurred when fraudsters impersonated City of Brandon employees seeking donations (see CBC news article: “Fraudsters pretending to represent city staff in COVID-19 phone scam: Brandon police”). Do not reveal any personal or financial information to unsolicited callers. Hang up and call the organization or charity directly to verify the validity of the call before providing any information. Taking this extra verification step will help to protect you from financial loss. In addition, ensure your employees are aware of these scams so they can avoid them. If you’ve fallen victim to such a scam, however, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or your local police. If you have a cyber liability policy in place, report this phone scam to your insurance company.


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