cerb scam

What you need to know about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit text scam

Unfortunately, most Canadians are not unfamiliar with phone and text scams. Whether it's someone trying to get moneyyour identity or something else, these criminals have not taken a break despite the fact that we're in the midst of a global pandemic — on the contrary, they've been preying on people's current vulnerability to exploit them. 

The latest in scumbag scams sends residents a text about the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) — which many Canadians are already pretty confused about — along with a fraudulent link masking as a way to access payment.

The messages vary in their composition, with some reading "( Canada Emergency Response Benefit ) A Payment (CAD) has been issued to help our citizens and economy fight against C-19 .>>" followed by a link that appears to lead to a federal government webpage.

Another says "Alert: the emergency response benefit of Canada relief fund has sent you a deposit," along with an amount and a malicious link to another fake website. The kicker is the fact that this text warns recipients that "data rates may apply" — data rates that serve as the crux of some scams.

Police, the Canada Revenue Agency, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians have responded to the hoaxes, reminding citizens that the government does not contact people via text.

"I’m sorry to say there appears to be a text scam going around on the new Emergency Response Benefit," Trudeau said at a press conference on Thursday. "I want to remind everyone that the government's website is the best place to find reliable information on everything that we’re doing."

Other recent COVID-19-related scams include ones that have tried to trick Canadians by offering fake coronavirus test kits, surgical masks and other items that are currently sought after and hard to come by.

There have also been scammers offering exclusive access to "hot new stocks related to the disease," or pretending to be the World Health Organization (WHO) or other trusted bodies.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued a statement advising residents to be on the lookout for such hoaxes right now, as "fraudsters want to profit from consumers' fears, uncertainties and misinformation." It has also provided a list of newly-reported scams.

The federal government too has a helpful webpage on how Canadians can recognize and protect themselves against scammers.

It is undoubtedly disgusting that scammers are co-opting a global infectious disease outbreak for their own financial gain, but sadly, not exactly surprising. 

Anyone who receives suspicious texts or calls should of course not respond and delete them or hang up. Accurate updates and information can always be found on the actual websites of groups like the WHO or the Government of Canada.

Lead photo by

Allie Smith/Unsplash

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