The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says it continues to see an increase in scams related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Since the beginning of March, the centre has received reports of 1,250 cases of COVID-19 fraud, with a total loss of $1.9 million. The vast majority of it is identity fraud connected to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, also known as CERB.
Trevor Halliday of Maple Ridge, B.C., recently fell victim to such a scam, after a fraudster stole his identity and opened a bank account in his name.
He and his wife, Joanne, said they were shocked when they discovered a Tangerine bank card in the mail one day, with his name on it.
When the couple contacted the bank, they said they were told the card was linked to a fraudulent account.
A call to the Canada Revenue Agency revealed a scammer had also applied for the CERB in Halliday’s name, and cheques were being directly deposited to the fake Tangerine account.
The Hallidays have both been working during the pandemic and have not applied for the taxable benefit.
“We were extremely worried,” Joanne said. “How much have they gotten? Are we going to have to pay it back? How do we prove it wasn’t us?
“We’ve got to get things stopped here.”
The couple said they’d received little information from Tangerine and the CRA. Consumer Matters reached out to Tangerine and received the following response:
“In Mr. Halliday’s case, one of our existing safeguards alerted him and he did the right thing by contacting us, at which point we took immediate action and closed the account.”
The Canada Revenue Agency said it has seen a number of different scams all seeking to exploit the public’s anxiety around the pandemic.
“The CRA designed the CERB application processes to be attestation-based. This is similar to the approach used in tax filing, where individuals attest to the information they provide when they file their taxes, and the CRA may verify this information at a later date,” spokesperson Christopher Doody said.
Still, Halliday said he’s been left with more questions than answers. He and his wife hope his story will remind people to be extra vigilant.
“If you haven’t applied for CERB or if you haven’t received your CERB cheques, you should be following up,” Joanne said.
“We wouldn’t have found out about this until next tax season had this card not come to our address.”
If you are a victim of fraud, contact your local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. For more information on what victims can do, visit: http://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/scams-fraudes/victim-victime-eng.htm