It has been weeks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is not yet showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. And yet, members of the Ontario Provincial Police or the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch’s Health Fraud Investigation Unit (HFIU) is busier than ever, citing an increase in the number of health care related scams linked to COVID-19 as the reason. OPP Anti-Rackets HFIU says that the new COVID-19 scams are targeting unsuspecting innocent Canadians to extort money and personal information.
Warning to Ontario Residents
Ontario residents are warned by OPP Anti-Rackets HFIU that they need to be extra vigilant as a lot of new online COVID-19 scams are specifically trying to gather health information through ‘harvest’ sites. Fraudsters are designing the harvest sites to look like legitimate websites and then trick victims into providing their sensitive personal information.
Fake Health Websites
The newly created websites pose as virtual care websites that at first glance can seem like websites designed to provide convenient and proper healthcare services to people. The truth is, the fraudulent websites use sophisticated malware to harvest personal information from people that can later be used for fraudulent billing or healthcare services and identity theft. In some cases, the scammers are extorting money from victims or asking for an upfront fake administrative fee for nonexistent services.
Protect Yourself Against Online COVID-19 Scams
Scammers take advantage of people’s emotional responses and prevailing misinformation to manipulate unsuspecting individuals. The best way that you can protect yourself is to stay informed and to follow the guidelines below:
- Be skeptical of companies claiming they got COVID-19 cure and guaranteed prevention
- Ask a lot of questions before providing information such as your Ontario Health Card Number, version code, or other personal information
- Refrain from downloading any attachments from unfamiliar websites or email
- Know that it is possible that spoofed source can look like a legitimate website or email
- Going to a physician’s office should not incur additional technical charges or surcharges for sanitizing cost and the like
- Make sure to verify who is calling if a call is requesting for your personal information
- Do not be afraid to say no to anyone who contacts you for your credit card information, bank account number, driver’s license number, health card version code, or any other personal identifying information
- It is perfectly okay to end all communication or contact with individuals or companies who keep on asking for sensitive information over the phone during COVID-19
Should you need more advice and information to help you avoid COVID-19 scams, be sure to refer to the Ontario Ministry of Health coverage and information or contact your insurance provider especially if you have queries about your insurance coverage.
If you know someone or think that you’ve been targeted for a health care related scam, insurance scam, or any COVID-19 scam, feel free to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or the police to report the possible fraud. If you need help to further protect yourself or to gather evidence for a report, contact us today at Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc.