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Phone scam tells Albertans they have COVID-19, asks for credit card info

Alberta Health Services issues warning about phone scam.
Alberta Health Services issues warning about phone scam. Getty Images

Alberta Health Services warned people about a phone scam circulating that involves novel coronavirus.

In a Facebook post on Tueday, AHS said it has received reports that Albertans are getting phone calls during which they’re told they have tested positive for COVID-19.

The caller then asks the person for their credit card information.

“AHS will never call and ask for credit card information,” the health agency stressed. “Please hang up immediately and report by calling the non-emergency line for local law enforcement.”

READ MORE: Premier Jason Kenney declares COVID-19 public health emergency in Alberta

On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency in Alberta over the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the province has 23 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total up to 97 and up from 74 a day earlier.

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“One of the critical things — I’d talked before about some of the community-acquired cases we’d seen and we have seen a few more cases that we’re still investigating but that are concerning,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

The province is moving forward with aggressive new measures on social distancing, including banning gatherings of groups of 50 or more. Existing events should be cancelled immediately, Kenney said.

Citizens are also banned from public places like casinos, bingo halls, theatres, children’s play centres, recreation centres and arenas, science centres, museums and art galleries, community centres, fitness facilities, and entertainment facilities like movie theatres.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Edmonton cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19

Kenney advised that family events such as weddings and funerals of more than 50 people should be cancelled, as should concerts and religious gatherings. Until further notice, all Albertans are restricted from attending bars and nightclubs.

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Tips for avoiding a scam

This isn’t the first scam connected to novel coronavirus.

“It could get worse before it gets better,” said Chester Wisniewski, a cybersecurity specialist at the international security firm Sophos. “There are new threats coming out every day.”

Most worrisome are scams where fraudsters are impersonating agencies like the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“Two of the most dangerous ones I worry about are ones that are stealing information that can lead to identity theft,” Wisniewski said.

To avoid falling for a scam, Wisniewski offered these recommendations:

  • Beware of emails with spelling and grammatical errors
  • Check the URL before you click on any link. Does it look legitimate?
  • Keep your computer up to date
  • If you have given away your password or other personal information, change your passwords on all accounts immediately
  • Don’t use the same password on more than one site

–With files from Anne Drewa, Global News