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Outbreak of COVID-19-related scams prompts public warnings

by Greg Klein | April 24, 2020

To some people, the crisis isn’t so much a challenge to overcome as an opportunity to exploit. As shysters find new ways to cash in on the pandemic, the Ontario Securities Commission, RCMP and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have been exposing the machinations.

Some companies have been trying to con investors by claiming to have products or services that prevent, detect or cure COVID-19. “At this time, there is still no vaccine or any natural health product that is authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19,” emphasized the OSC and RCMP.

Outbreak of COVID-19-related scams prompts public warnings

Fake medical claims play on COVID-19 fears.
(Image: Ontario Securities Commission)

Investors not already inured to aggressive promotion should realize that the crisis provides yet another platform for baseless stock price projections and false claims of huge profits, the OSC/RCMP added.

In a series of short video alerts, the OSC outlines some other gambits currently being perpetrated.

Work-from-home scams prey on people who’ve lost jobs or suffered income reductions. Fraudsters “offer opportunities to earn high profits at home as a securities or a derivatives trader, without requiring a licence or any experience in the financial market.”

Fake warnings about personal finances prey on economic fears. Posing as bank staff or investment advisers, con artists might frighten people about their savings or portfolio, and try to prise sensitive financial or personal info.

Pumping and dumping finds a new venue with aggressively promoted products or services that claim to prevent, detect or cure COVID-19. By suddenly dumping the stock at inflated prices, the P&D crew profits at the expense of the naive. Read more on COVID-19 pumping and dumping.

Fake government messages target personal or financial details through text or e-mails supposedly concerning the pandemic or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Hardly limited to personal finance and investment schemes, swindlers have concocted numerous other pandemic ploys. A Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre bulletin outlines several such schemes, including fake charities, fake home or business inspections, fake decontamination services and fake diagnosis or treatments. The list goes on, showing the criminal mind is nothing if not inventive.

Canadians can report investment scams to their provincial or territorial securities regulators. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offers additional resources and advice:

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