If there is a crisis or situation where people feel particularly vulnerable or anxious, it’s a pretty safe bet that there will be fraudsters who look to take advantage of the situation.
Much like how the CRA scammers take advantage of people who are worried about completing their taxes incorrectly, scammers have identified an opportunity to take advantage of people’s heightened concern and need for information about COVID-19. Being aware of scams before you’re targeted makes them easier to identify and can help you avoid that brief moment of panic that can cloud your judgment.
While cybercriminals are currently using COVID-19 for their scam attempts, the tips outlined in this article can apply to any type of scam or phishing email that you might receive.
Phishing Scams refer to fraudulent emails that are sent by fraudsters in hopes that unsuspecting recipients will give out sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, banking information, or payment information. There have been reports that fraudsters are currently impersonating widely recognized organizations including the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), to attempt to access sensitive personal email.
You can use the following tips to help confirm the legitimacy of an email before clicking on any links or entering any personal information:
- Be wary of clicking on links in unfamiliar emails. Before clicking on a link, hover your cursor over the link and confirm that the domain it is directing you to matches what the email says it is.
- Watch out for misspelled words and poor grammar. An excess of spelling mistakes can be an indication the email is not from a legitimate source.
- Double-check the sender’s name and their email address to make sure they match. Often fraudsters will use a legitimate-looking name or the name of someone you know, but they can’t duplicate their real-life email address. If the email doesn’t match the name or appears to be random, this can be a sign that the email is a scam. If the email appears to come from a well-known institution or agency, make sure the domain of the email is correct. For example, an email from the World Health Organization will only come from [email protected] – not .org, .com, .biz, etc.
- Practice patience and remain calm, even if you receive an email pushing for urgent action. Scammers rely on making you feel stressed or panicked to have you overlook potential red flags and submit sensitive information before you realize the email is a scam.
These tips are ways you can identify illegitimate emails. By running through this quick checklist when you receive unfamiliar emails, you can identify fraudulent emails before you accidentally provide sensitive information. If you’re checking email on a mobile device, it might be harder to quickly spot red flags in phishing emails, so we recommend being extra vigilant before clicking on links in emails on your smartphone or tablet.
Text scams have been increasing in popularity, they work similarly to phishing scams. A scammer will send a text message prompting you to click on a link that will then ask you for sensitive personal information or payment for something.
If you are located in Canada, there are reports of COVID-19 text scams where the text reads “Alert: The emergency response benefit of Canada relief fund has sent you a deposit of $1375.50.”
The text includes a link that asks for your personal information to claim the money. Just like with phishing scams, if you did not initiate contact with a person or a business, and you do not know who you’re dealing with, you should not click on any links in a text message. The best practice is to never give out your personal information when it is asked for by someone you are not familiar with.
Other similar scams that have been reported include examples where a fraudster claiming to be with the Red Cross offers to send free masks in exchange for a shipping fee. If you receive an email or a text message from a sender you are not familiar with, it is always best to apply some skepticism before responding or providing any personal information.
We want you to feel confident that emails sent from the Helcim Team are indeed from Helcim. Communication materials that Helcim sends out will always come from an official Helcim email address (emails from @helcim.com), and we never ask for payment information or credit card details over email.