Police warn of COVID-19 scammers

Nanaimo RCMP are warning the public of scammers spreading misinformation online about COVID-19 in order to obtain money and personal information.

Police say scams making the rounds involve private companies falsely claiming to offer fast COVID-19 testing, door-to-door offers of fake decontamination services and fraudsters posing as police and imposing on-the-spot fines to people wearing masks.

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The RCMP remind the public that only health care workers can perform COVID-19 testing and that there is no law against wearing a mask in public.

When it comes to cleaning, it is best to follow public health guidelines. Officials recommend cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces once a day using standard cleaning products.

Police say online scams include fraudsters urging people to invest in new stocks related to COVID-19; sending emails, texts or online campaigns that take advantage of fears of the novel coronavirus; and deceptive ads for cleaning products, hand sanitizers and other products that are in high demand.

Many of the ads are appearing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, the police say, and play on fear and anxiety.

Police suggest using a credit card when shopping online, because many offer some protection against fraud and may provide a refund.

A number of people have also reported scammers soliciting donations in response to COVID-19, but police say no one who reported an interaction lost money, because they were able to do a quick search online to determine the call was fake.

Anyone who has been contacted by a suspected scammer but has not lost money or provided personal information should report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at antifraudcentre.ca.

Anyone who has lost money or given away personal information online or in person can call the non-emergency line of the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345.

Public health officials continue to urge people to practice social distancing in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home as much as possible and keeping at least two metres away from others when outside.

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