Coronavirus: Canadians warned about COVID-19 vaccine scams

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Coronavirus: Canadians warned about COVID-19 vaccine scams
Coronavirus: Canadians warned about COVID-19 vaccine scams

Scams routinely make their way through the community, but this year there is a noticeable increase in the amount of tax-related scams, or fake COVID-19 vaccination calls.

Kamloops RCMP Cst. Crystal Evelyn says there are a variety of ways people are being contacted — via email, text message, or phone call.

“It’s not just a straightforward, one type (scam). There’s a lot going on and for that reason we’re asking the public to be very protective of their personal information.”

Evelyn says many of these calls may sound like the real thing, but there are red flag phrases to watch out for.

“No government agencies is going to threaten to arrest you when it comes to Canadian Revenue Agency and that sort of thing. No government agency accepts payment in the form of Bitcoin or iTunes cards and that sort of thing.”

If someone suspects a message or phone call is a scam attempt, police recommend hanging up and trying to confirm whether the phone number was legitimate.

“And if you don’t have a number, I wouldn’t be providing your credit card information or things like that,” notes Evelyn, “Just stop the purchase there then, and report it.”

Anyone can fall victim to these convincing text messages, emails or phone calls, however many target seniors during spring tax season.

Kamloops Centre for Seniors Information Executive Director Brandi Allen says this year, there are also fraudulent offers to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

“I don’t know if maybe scammers are stuck at home and they’re a little bored but we’ve definitely seen an increase this year. We have a lot of phone calls, a lot of people coming in. What I always tell people when I have a chance to is if you get a phone call from anybody, a text, an email that seems suspicious — don’t give them any information, hang up, and call us.”

To ensure the phone call came from a government agency, you can ask for the caller’s name, phone number and office location, and tell them that you want to first verify their identity.

Seniors looking for a legitimate way to deal with the CRA can contact the Kamloops Centre for Seniors Information, which also offers income tax filing during weekdays from 9:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m.

Allen says it’s unfortunate when people become victims of phishing attempts or financial scams, and there are steps that need to be taken to prevent further theft.

“If somebody thinks that they have been scammed — maybe they’ve already given out some information and they’re not sure if they should have — I think the best thing to do is phone the RCMP immediately,” Allen says. “If you’re uncomfortable with that, if you’re a little embarrassed, if you want to go over some of the stuff first, you can call me and I can help walk them through the steps.”

If your gut tells you something is off, call Kamloops RCMP or the Centre for Seniors Information to determine what’s real and what’s fake.

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