Alberta Premier Jason Kenney did not mince words Monday afternoon when he came out with a warning to scammers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To those who are trying to exploit seniors and others during this time of a public health emergency, there must be a special place in hell for people like that,” the premier said.
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“Just stop it. It is completely un-Canadian, it is un-Albertan, it is unacceptable, it is illegal and if we catch anybody who is engaged in these kinds of frauds or scams, I guarantee the book will be thrown at them and they will face the full force of the law.”
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Kenney made the comments while announcing new financial supports for Albertans amid the global health crisis.
The premier said the province has been made aware of several scams and fraudulent operations targeting the province’s most vulnerable.
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He said one scam going around right now sees people receiving phone calls from someone who claims to be a representative from Alberta Health Services. The caller tells the person they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, then proceeds to ask for personal information like their personal health-care number, ID information and credit card information, Kenney explained.
“In addition, cybersecurity incidents involving malware and fraudulent activities, including identity theft, are being reported across Alberta in the wake of COVID-19,” Kenney said.
“Cybercriminals are sending emails and setting up fake websites designed to trick people into clinking links that install malicious software on their computers or capture credentials and other personal information.”
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Kenney urged Albertans to exercise caution, and not click on any links or provide personal information to anyone if it’s unsolicited.
The Better Business Bureau of Southern Alberta also spoke out Monday about how people are being targeted in a wide range of scams that have appeared during the pandemic.
“We are seeing miracle cures for COVID-19 and we ask that you look out for that,” BBB communications specialist Shawna-Kay Thomas said. “As well, we’re asking you to look out for websites saying that they have masks that they can get you in bulk.”
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Thomas said scammers are luring people online, sending emails and text messages, and also making phone calls.
“Gift card scams are popping up now from companies said to be giving you a gift card because you’re working from home,” Thomas said. “Do not click on those link — it’s often just phishing emails, phishing for information that will be used in a malicious way — so you want to be careful about those.”
The Better Business Bureau says the scammers are hoping to take advantage of the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Some people are scared, some people are panicking,” Thomas said. “They know that at this time you may not be thinking logically, because you want a quick fix or you’re thinking that businessesare being nice at this point.”
The BBB is advising people to get as much information on the scammers as possible and then to report scams to them.
“Beware, be on the lookout,” Thomas said, “because the scammers are out there.”
The premier also urged people to stop “unnecessarily hoarding” amid the pandemic.
He said he volunteered at the Hope Mission in Edmonton on Monday morning, where he learned the organization has seen a nearly 80-per-cent spike in the number of people coming in for free meals over the past two weeks. Kenney said the homeless shelter is struggling to get items it needs because its suppliers are “being stressed by the demand in the grocery stores and in the grocery system.”
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“This is outrageous,” he said.
“The poorest amongst us are being hurt by people who are unnecessarily hoarding.
“There is no need for people to engage in hoarding.”
Reliable, pertinent information about the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Alberta government’s website. Scams should also be reported to the province, on the government’s website, Kenney said.
–With files from Global News’ Gil Tucker
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