Fraud Prevention Month

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to provide scammers with opportunities to take advantage of Canadians. March is Fraud Prevention Month. Here are some types of scams you should be wary of during these uncertain times. Note: a new topic will be added each week in March.

On this page

Buying and selling scams

During the pandemic, people who have never shopped online before have turned to the internet for groceries, everyday shopping, banking and companionship. In 2020, frauds associated to Canadians buying or selling goods or services online accounted for more than $12.9 million in reported losses.

Non-delivery scams (including puppy scams, rental scams, and deceptive marketing of counterfeit goods) have all increased over the pandemic period. Many non-delivery scams are related to the rising demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, hand sanitizers, gloves and face shields.

Beware of fraudsters looking to buy goods or services that you are selling online. Fraudsters will contact sellers via email or text with a generic message wanting to buy an item without seeing it. They will claim to be out-of-town and will offer to pay above the asking price to cover the cost of shipping. The seller will either receive a fraudulent payment in the form of a counterfeit cheque, compromised credit card, or a fake email notification stating that the payment is pending. The email message says that the money will only be transferred once a tracking number is provided by the seller. The seller will then ship the product and provide the tracking number to the fraudster. Shortly after, the seller will realize that the payment notification was fake and that no money is available.

Warning signs

Financial scams

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose financial challenges and uncertainty for many. Whether it is caused by illness or job loss, financial emergencies can be stressful and cause considerable hardship.

Financial scams pose a significant risk to Canadians. Grant and loan scams, job scams, and investment scams often target people experiencing financial hardship.

Warning signs

How to protect yourself

Protecting your information

Working from home, online banking, and socializing online have all increased over the pandemic period creating new opportunities for fraudsters to capture your personal and financial information. Fraudsters can then use this information to commit identity fraud. It is important that Canadians take steps to secure their personal and financial information and know what to do when identity fraud occurs.

Recognize the signs that your personal information may have been stolen:


Learn more tips and tricks for protecting your personal information.


Learn more about what to do if you’re a victim.

Email and text messaging scams

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) has documented an increase in fraud and cybercrime attacks launched by email and text messages. While some of these attacks were Coronavirus themed, CERB-related and, more recently, COVID-19 vaccination themed; many of them had the same intention: to trick you into opening malicious attachments or to trick you into revealing sensitive personal and financial details.

In addition to COVID-19 themed messages, the CAFC has also documented a general increase in phishing scams and extortion demands requesting bitcoin payments, job scams, merchandise scams and more targeted attacks such as spear phishing.

Top 5 email and text message scams in 2020

  1. Phishing
  2. Extortion
  3. Job
  4. Spear phishing
  5. Merchandise

How to protect yourself

Prevalent online scams

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and lock downs continuing, Canadians confined to their homes are increasingly relying on the Internet and social media to stay connected. This presents opportunities for fraudsters who are actively creating fake accounts, profiles and advertisements. Here are some prevalent online scams and warning signs:

Romance scams

In romance scams, fraudsters will gain the trust of their victims by carrying on a relationship over a period of time. This can include displays of affection like sending gifts, flowers and tokens to prove that their feelings are genuine. In many cases, the fraudster will claim to be a professional business person or military personnel that are travelling or stationed abroad. Once trust is gained, fraudsters will begin to ask for financial assistance for reasons like urgent situations (e.g. a sick family member or to complete a business transaction) or to return to the country (e.g. plane ticket, lawyer fees, or duty & taxes).

Learn more about romance scams.

Immigration scams

From ads offering guaranteed work permits and high paying jobs in Canada to websites that offer services to expedite your immigration application, fraudsters are using Canada's good reputation to scam people looking to come to Canada. Victims will be asked to pay high fees via Money Service Businesses like Western Union or MoneyGram, e-transfer, Visa or prepaid gift cards in order to process an application for visas and/or work permits. Once money is sent, the fraudster ends contact with the victim.

Learn how to protect yourself from immigration fraud.

Deceptive government service scams

Planning to book a road test or renew your passport? Beware of third party companies offering to do it for you. Access to most government services is free. Any applicable fees will be collected when you submit your application.

Education scams

Are you looking for learning opportunities while you are laid off or out of work due to COVID-19? Look out for websites offering free trial training opportunities that require a credit card to register; it could be a subscription trap. Unless victims review the terms and conditions on these sites, it is unlikely they will see the hidden fees associated to the offer. These fees usually include overpriced monthly charges that are nearly impossible to cancel.

Warning signs

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