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Edmonton police warning of coronavirus scams after 3 lose more than $17K

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WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton Police say citizens have already lost nearly $18,000 to fraudsters trying to capitalize on fears surrounding COVID-19. Sarah Ryan reports.

Since the novel coronavirus arrived in Alberta, police say three Edmontonians have lost $17,750 in scams related to COVID-19.

Detective Linda Herczeg with the EPS Economic Crimes Section says criminals are preying on people’s fears.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Counterfeit Chinese-made face masks pulled offline after Global News probe

“I think that the scammers are integrating the coronavirus into the scams as a sense of urgency. That appeals to your emotions, it appeals to your need to help other people and prevent them from falling victim [to the virus].”
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One woman lost $250 on a fake website selling masks.

Another man called the police and said he had received a phone call that he had won a prize. It was a six-year shopping raffle.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba officials warn people to avoid scams

The scammers made it even more lucrative, saying he’d won a car as well and asking him to send $2,500 so he could get registration for the vehicle.

The man was convinced to send the money. But then, they asked for more.

“If you want your car, you have to get tested to make sure you don’t have the coronavirus,” the man was told, according to Herczeg.

READ MORE: Scammers have never had a more target-rich environment amid coronavirus pandemic: experts

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They charged a fee for that fake testing, Herczeg said. It wasn’t until they asked for even more cash, $6,000, that the man realized it was a scam and called police.

At least two additional victims were involved in this scam across Alberta, including people in Airdrie and Drumheller, police said.

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Coronavirus fraudster warning

The third scam cost the victim $15,000 and it involved someone impersonating the police over the phone.

“[They were told] their phone number has been used to phone Shanghai, China and give confidential information or they’ve lied to China about the COVID-19 virus,” Herczeg said the caller alleges.
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Herczeg said the victim is then transferred to a fake police officer in China and there’s pressure to pay fines for lying and service fees to fix things.

READ MORE: Edmonton police say romance scams growing in lonely new coronavirus reality

Police say also they’re hearing of people going door to door selling fraudulent coronavirus testing kits or calling people and saying they have the results of your COVID-19 test but you have to pay a fee to get them.

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Some hospitals are locking up PPE which nurses need: Silas

Some scammers are trying to take advantage of people’s love for their friends and family, saying one of them tested positive for coronavirus and in order for them to get the results, there has to be a healthcare fee paid, as well as a testing fee.

“They’re asking you to pay these fees on behalf of friends or family members that don’t have the money,” Herczeg said

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In a statement, Sabrina Atwal with Alberta Health Services said AHS became aware the scam on March 17.

“A small number of people alerted us to calls they had received from someone claiming to be from AHS,” she said. “The caller then told the person that they had tested positive for COVID-19, and requested the person’s personal healthcare number, ID and credit care information.”

READ MORE: Canadians targeted by scams taking advantage of COVID-19 fears

Atwal went on to say the call was a scam and that it’s disappointing to see.

“To be clear — AHS will never call and ask for credit card information,” she said.

“If you receive one of these calls, please hang up immediately and report by calling the non-emergency line for local law enforcement.”

Police say yet another scam is text message based. The fraudster will offer free face masks if you click on a link. The promises of free masks are not real and the links are fake.

More information on identifying fraud and what to do if you think you are a victim of fraud is available on the Edmonton Police Service website.

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