OPP warns of increasing health care-related scams during COVID-19 outbreak
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
In a media release on May 13, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) shared people are being targeted by increasing health care-related scams during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“OPP Anti-Rackets HFIU warns Ontario residents to remain vigilant for scams related to COVID-19, specifically health information "harvest" sites, where fraudsters may be creating websites that trick victims into providing sensitive personal information. A number of "Virtual Care" websites have been created, many for convenience and proper health care services but some websites use sophisticated malware to trick people to supply personal information. This information can be used to fraudulently bill for health care services and commit identity theft. Fraudsters are also attempting to extort money from victims, asking for upfront money before providing a service or for an administrative fee,” the news release informed.
The OPP listed ways to stay protected from the health care-related scams:
• Beware of companies that claim cures and prevention for
• Do your research before you provide your Ontario Health Card number, version code or other personal information.
• Never download an attachment from an email or website with which you are unfamiliar.
• Even if a website or email appears to be from a familiar organization, the source could be spoofed.
• No one should be subjected to surcharges such as additional technical charges or sanitizing costs if you attend a physician's office.
• Verify who is calling if you receive a phone call requesting your personal information.
Both the Sioux Lookout OPP and Lac Seul Police Service confirmed there have been no local reports regarding the specific scams. Sioux Lookout OPP said local residents should still remain cautious and be aware of the ongoing scamming to prevent becoming an innocent victim.
“The OPP want to advise people that these schemes are going on, not to raise alarm, but to promote awareness. We have not received any reports of incidents victimizing local people. However, this is not to say that local residents should not be cautious. These health care scams are setup online and by phone, and can impact anyone accessing health care information through remote sources. The scams are designed to take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities in a time of uncertainty. Thankfully, with a little bit of knowledge, the public can protect themselves from being victimized,” said Sioux Lookout OPP Constable Andrea DeGagne.
“As indicated in the press release, people can keep themselves and their families safe by accessing health care and COVID-19 – related information directly through government-run organizations and websites, and verifying recipient identity prior to giving out any personal information. When in doubt, just say NO. It may also be helpful to know that there are currently no proven cures/preventions for COVID-19, nor should anybody be subject to paying additional sanitizing or technical charges when accessing health care resources at this time.
“Get Cyber Safe is a national, multi-jurisdiction, public awareness campaign created to educate Canadians about Internet security and the simple steps they can take to protect themselves online. Visit getcybersafe.gc.ca. If you or someone you know suspect they've been a victim of a COVID-19, health care related scam or any other scam, contact your local police service or contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Report fraud or by phone at 1-888-495-8501,” she concluded.