(ORILLIA, ON) – As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues, members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Anti-Rackets Branch, Health Fraud Investigation Unit (HFIU) say increasing health care-related scams are targeting unsuspecting, innocent victims to extort money and, in particular, personal information.
OPP Anti-Rackets HFIU warns Ontario residents to remain vigilant for scams related to COVID-19, specifically health information “harvest” sites, where fraudsters may be creating websites that trick victims into providing sensitive personal information. A number of “Virtual Care” websites have been created, many for convenience and proper healthcare services but some websites use sophisticated malware to trick people to supply personal information. This information can be used to fraudulently bill for healthcare services and commit identity theft. Fraudsters are also attempting to extort money from victims, asking for upfront money before providing a service or for an administrative fee.
How to protect yourself
- Beware of companies that claim cures and prevention for COVID-19.
- Do your research before you provide your Ontario Health Card number, version code or other personal information.
- Never download an attachment from an email or website with which you are unfamiliar.
- Even if a website or email appears to be from a familiar organization, the source could be spoofed.
- No one should be subjected to surcharges such as additional technical charges or sanitizing costs if you attend a physician’s office.
- Verify who is calling if you receive a phone call requesting your personal information.
The best defense is to question websites, emails or phone calls that appear to be legitimate. Just say ‘NO’ if anyone contacts you and asks for any information regarding your health card number and/or your health card version code, bank account number, credit card information, driver’s license number or any other personally identifying information. Simply end all contact with any companies or individuals who ask for this information.