How to protect yourself from COVID-19 fraud scams

Fraudsters always try to profit from misinformation and during times of increased anxiety by targeting vulnerable people, and these times are no different. 

By targeting victims through various means—including phone calls, email, texts and mail—fraudsters are increasingly contributing to financial loss, with Canadians reporting over $100 million in losses in 2019 alone according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. 

A recent TD survey revealed that the majority (61%) of Canadian respondents found a strong link between social isolation and vulnerability to fraud, as those who are socially isolated may not have anyone to act as a sounding board if they encounter a fraudster.  

Fraudsters don't discriminate and will always try to target Canadians, but times of volatility, such as the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, can make potential victims even more vulnerable. As a precaution, the RCMP has advised Canadians be on the lookout for scams related to the ongoing health crisis, including phishing, malware, and other malicious email campaigns.

To help protect you, your loved ones and your business in these trying times, below are some of the most common types of fraud affecting Canadians, as well as some information on how you can better arm yourself to spot fraud before it’s too late. 

Malware and Phishing

As a result of the evolving COVID-19 situation, cybercriminals are creating phishing scams to exploit public fears and the desire for new information. Some emails are claiming to be from legitimate organizations with information about COVID-19. If you click on an attachment or embedded link within the emails, you could unknowingly download malicious software (malware) onto your device that could threaten your personal well-being. Read more about how you can protect yourself from malware and phishing

Scams targeting seniors 

Seniors are increasingly being targeted by financial fraudsters — they often prey on seniors by creating a false emergency or false sense of urgency around why the funds are needed. Help protect your family members by talking to them about common scams, such as the 'grandparent scam', where grandparents are conned into sending money to someone pretending to be their grandchild or another family member in a foreign country. Another common type of fraud is the romance scam, in which fraudsters use legitimate dating websites to extort money from someone looking for companionship.

Business email compromise

Email is not a secure mode of communication. Fraudsters can and will use it to their advantage. Remember to validate payment instructions on the phone or face-to-face, follow all internal policies and controls, and treat any message that claims a change was made to an account as a red flag. Read more about business email fraud to learn how you can protect yourself and your business. 

E-Transfer fraud 

E-transfer fraud occurs when a third party intercepts an email money transfer and correctly guesses or obtains the password, robbing the sender of their funds. Learn how to mitigate the risks of e-transfer fraud by signing up for Interac e-Transfer Autodeposit

How you can protect yourself from fraud

As fraudsters become more sophisticated, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant and recognize the role you play in identifying and preventing fraud. To help, we’ve put together a few tips to assist in keeping you, your family and your friends safe. 

  • Monitor official sources. If you are searching for information and updates on COVID-19, please visit official government sites like the Government of Canada or the World Health Organization for timely and relevant updates. Only visit news organizations that you know and trust. Do not click on links or visit sites that you don't recognize as these sites could contain malware. And always remember the old adage – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Pay attention to your fraud alerts. Many banks use text messages to communicate with their customers. By signing up for services such as TD Fraud Alerts, you'll receive text messages that will alert you if suspicious activity is detected on your personal banking account. It’s an easy and free way to help avoid falling victim to financial fraud.

  • Keep tabs on your statements, online accounts or banking apps. Regularly checking your account transactions is an easy way to identify any potentially fraudulent transactions. Money management apps, such as the TD MySpend app, can also help you in the fight against fraud with real-time notifications of spend transactions, making it easy to spot suspicious charges.

  • Protect your PIN. Part of your responsibility as a credit and debit cardholder is protecting your PIN. No one – not even your bank – should know your PIN. It’s important to make sure you don’t ever give it out, whether in person, over the phone, online or by mail.

  • Have conversations with family and friends. Seniors are becoming more frequent targets of scams, according the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Help protect your family members by talking about common scams that often target elderly Canadians. 

  • If you fall victim to fraud, REPORT IT. It's imperative for those who have lost money to fraudsters to report it to the police, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. And share your story – your experience may help someone else avoid the same trap.