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Phone with COVID scam symbol

Responding to improved pandemic scams

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 @ 11:50 AM | By Jennifer Lynch and Margot Mary Davis


Jennifer Lynch %>
Jennifer Lynch
Margot Mary Davis %>
Margot Mary Davis
Recently, we published a piece about common COVID-19 scams and how to reduce one’s risk of being a victim of fraudsters. In the below article, we list and describe some other scams. We also provide useful advice about how to combat fraud.

Phishing campaigns

E-mail phishing has been around since public access to the Internet has existed and COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem. From March 2020 to September 2020, there was a 30,000 per cent increase in phishing attacks. While some of these phishing e-mails and texts are generic ones that are similar to pre COVID-19 phishing campaigns, other e-mails have “cashed in” on COVID-19. Increasingly, fraudsters have sent e-mails that pretend to be from the CDC or other regulatory bodies. E-mails may contain “COVID-19” in the subject header. A made-in-Canada scam includes phishing texts and e-mails about repaying CERB and CESB. If you click on these links, you could download malware or reveal personal information.

Do not fall for the bait. Government bodies and corporations will not ask for personal information over e-mail. Phishing e-mails often contain poor grammar and use logos that look slightly off. As previously mentioned, never click on links in suspicious e-mails or download attachments from such e-mails. Open a new Google page and type in the name manually. Never call the number in a suspect e-mail. You are under no obligation to respond to these e-mails. If you are wondering if you need to make a payment to the government or a service provider, you can always call them. Also, consider installing anti-virus software.

Corporations should consider creating anti-fraud training programs for employees where they inform them about common phishing campaigns and features associated with such e-mails.

Internal fraud

Often, people associate fraud with outside actors. In corporations, employees, officers and directors can actually be the source of much fraud. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, notes that COVID-19 fraud schemes could include employees forging signatures on cheques and corporations deducting COVID-19 related expenses over several periods instead of deducting them immediately.

To combat this type of fraud, corporations should have multiple employees handle bookkeeping, regularly review accounts and adopt anonymous whistle-blowing programs. It is also important to consider employees’ morale during these times. Personal financial problems might increase their chances of stealing. Corporations should try to not reduce hours and tell their employees that they value them and their contributions. If possible, they should consider COVID-19 bonuses.

How can I combat COVID-19 related fraud?

Above we listed some tips to reduce one’s chance of being a victim of fraud. Here, we provide ways to fight fraud.

If you come across any type of fraud or suspected fraud, you should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Its phone number is 1-888-495-8501, and its e-mail is antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca. If you have the unfortunate experience of being a victim of fraud, you should contact the police. Additionally, you should inform local news organizations about any scams you come across.

Specific types of fraud demand certain response. Someone who comes across vendors offering tenuous treatments and cures on Twitter or Facebook, should report that vendor to Twitter, or Facebook. Phishing schemes can be reported to the Canadian Centre for Cyber-Security (contact@cyber.gc.ca).

Conclusion

Fraud has always been a concern and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an explosion of fraud. Scam artists have adjusted their techniques to the current scenario and created COVID-19 specific fraud. Above, we listed some common scams and how to avoid them.

Stay safe; safe smart.

This is the conclusion of a two part article: Part one: New, improved pandemic scams.

Jennifer Lynch is an accomplished forensic accountant and business owner. Jennifer is a Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified Management Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner who has a reputation for expertise, quality service to clients and professionalism. You can reach her on LinkedIn. Margot Mary Davis is a 2018 Ontario call to the bar. She is interested in policy issues surrounding law like combating counterfeit goods and developing sui generis policies for orphan drugs. She is also a published author.

Photo credit / 
Mark Astakhov ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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