Waterloo Regional Police say the number of reported online fraud incidents has doubled since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Police say they have received 113 internet fraud calls since the Ontario government declared a state of emergency on March 17. Over the same time period a year ago, police say they received 66 calls regarding these types of incidents.
People have been scammed in a variety of ways, including online scams, callers pretending to be a person’s boss and pet scams, according to police.
In one instance, police say a person had agreed to purchase a kitten, first sending a deposit and more money for an additional cost.
By the time they realized they were being duped, the fraudsters had made off with around $3,000, police say.
“We’re seeing a lot of instances where people are taking advantage of COVID-19 where they can’t meet a person. Sellers are advising the buyer that because of COVID-19, they’re unable to meet in person,” Const. Andre Johnson told Global News.
“In this case, it was a kitten, and in order to receive the kitten, they would have to put a deposit or put the money down before they received the animal.”
Police say the grifters are also posting items for sale on classified sites, and once a payment is made, they are pulling the ads down and disappearing.
“So ads are posted online involving different products, whether it’s household appliances or other electronics. The ads will require a deposit from the buyer to hold the items for them,” Johnson said. “The victim would send an e-transfer to the seller and not receive the product, then not be able to contact the seller as well.”
In three instances, police say scammers posed as employers, asking the victims to buy gift cards and provide activation pins.
Police say that, in total, the losses in the three cases amounted to more than $2,000.
They have issued some tips they say the public should consider to protect themselves.
“We’re just reminding people that if it seems to good to be true, it is,” Johnson said. “Just be vigilant. Recognize scams are going on, and you’re going to want to make sure that you do extra steps to verify that you’re actually purchasing a real animal, real product.”
Police are also suggesting that if you buy an animal, make sure that it is from a reputable breeder.