The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a new way of life that includes copious amounts of hand washing, masks and physical distancing. Along with it comes uncertainty and unpredictability – things that hackers and scammers thrive on. A climate of confusion has allowed these scammers to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and take advantage of the general public.

With a little savviness, critical thinking, and a healthy dose of skepticism you can avoid the scams and tricks that have popped up due to the pandemic. Here are the biggest things to look out for:


Phishing emails

Phishing emails are fraudulent emails designed to trick or deceive you into providing personal information, clicking on malicious links or downloading questionable attachments. Scammers are very clever in creating their emails often designing them to look like organizations that you already interact with and trust.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these emails may say that:

  • You’ve been in contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Your COVID-19 test results are ready
  • You’re eligible for additional funds due to the pandemic
  • A charity is seeking your monetary assistance
  • They can help you apply for government assistance

How to Protect Yourself:

Be wary of requests for personal information such as your bank account information, social insurance number, or personal address. If the email has a link in it, you can hover over the link to see where it sends you.

When in doubt, if an email looks suspicious don’t click on the links or download the attachments. If you didn’t initiate contact, you don’t know who may be on the other end. Reach out to the organization using contact information you know to be correct (via a contact us page on their website for example) to verify if the email is sent from them.


False and Misleading Claims

Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true. Phishing emails, online advertisements, text messages, and unsolicited phone calls may offer things like:

  • vaccines or a cure for COVID-19
  • testing kits which may be fake or defective
  • discounted hand sanitizer or other disinfectants
  • and other items in high demand

How to Protect Yourself:

When it comes to these offers, do your research and look for information about these items from trusted sources. For example, Health Canada has an updated list of disinfectant and hand sanitizers that are likely to be effective for use against COVID-19.


CERB and CESB Scams

Applying for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) is free and there are only two ways to apply: online on a government website and by phone. Any companies or individuals reaching out to you to apply for these benefits are likely suspicious.

Additionally, be aware of emails, texts, and phone calls seeking repayment for the CERB and CESB. There are official ways of repaying your benefit that do not include these methods. Similar to phishing emails, do not click on links or download attachments that come with these messages.

How to Protect Yourself:

The Canadian government will only contact you via certain communication methods – usually via a letter or a message in their secure online platform. They will never send you a text message or use messaging apps like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. Here is a list of things to expect from legitimate communications from the CRA.



Malware is always a concern and during the pandemic is no different. Along with following best practices to avoid accidentally downloading or installing malware, be aware of specific COVID-19 related vulnerabilities as well.

While most people think of malware on the computer, malware can also appear on your phone. The Government of Canada has released an official COVID-19 exposure app, but that didn’t stop scammers from producing their own version that hijacks the user’s phone asking for money to get back their phone access.

How to Protect Yourself:

Don’t click on links or download attachments from suspicious emails. Download apps only from the Google Play or Apple store and check the reviews for any red flags.


How to Not Get Scammed

The best defence against scammers is to be aware and err on the side of caution when in doubt. Be sure you’re getting information from trusted sources.

Here are some additional resources to help you outsmart the scammers: