Fraudsters preying on COVID-19’s unemployed

July 7, 2020
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Fraud artists are targeting jobless people during the COVID-19 outbreak with scams aimed at stealing money or personal information, an employment expert says. The uncertainty of the times and a surge in layoffs following the closure of non-essential businesses have made more people suitable targets for scammers. People are experiencing a heightened emotional state. It doesn’t matter what kind of scam it is. It’s meant to set off an emotional trigger. Then, criminals go into action.

An emerging swindle involves criminals posing as recruiters or human relations staff when they “phish” for sensitive data. Scammers are using all means including phone calls, emails, texts and social media to find their victims. 

Scammers are pretending to be representatives of essential services, often asking job seekers for personal information and even payment. Fraudsters are using social media to pitch work-at-home jobs such as envelope-stuffing, but telling targets that they need to buy expensive equipment for the job. 

Other pandemic-related scams are also proliferating.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there have been texts from scammers purporting to be government officials, calls offering duct cleaning services or filters to protect residents from the virus and even fake lists for sale of COVID-19 infected people in people’s neighbourhoods, looking to profit from people’s fears and misinformation.

People selling goods online are also being scammed by professional and ruthless fraudsters. They openly share their information with sellers and use lockdown as an excuse to get others to collect the goods on their behalf. They on-sell the item, leaving the original seller with no product and no money, and people coming to them for payment. There is a sophisticated network of criminals who employ the skills of professionals in various fields including IT, law and digital commerce. 

Contact your local employment agency to find out if there are any legitimate online employment options instead of responding to social media adverts designed to draw you into these scams. Take precautions to protect yourself and be circumspect if you are asked for personal details online.

  • Update passwords.
  • Avoid the repeated use of passwords across platforms.
  • Get your PC virus software updated.
  • Regularly back things up on an external hard drive.
  • Update your insurance details with your insurer with replacement values so that in the worst-case scenario, you at least have a reasonable chance of recovering what is stolen from you.

The old rule remains — when in doubt, it’s out! Be aware and be proactive to protect yourself.

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