The COVID-19 pandemic has created many opportunities for neighbours to pull together and support each other. Unfortunately, in other cases, it has also created opportunity for individuals to take advantage of quiet streets or the uncertainty surrounding government supports, to prey on those who may be more vulnerable.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has noted several online scams circulating related to the Federal CERB program, among those they actively monitor. Toronto Public Health has warned of fraudsters posing as public health officials asking for banking and SIN information. Toronto Police Service has also identified scammers trying to impose a “fine” for leaving the house too many times, or offering special COVID-19 related services or products.
Many of these scams are especially effective because they capitalize on government activity we might expect in our lives. Kush Sharma, Toronto’s Chief Information Security Officer offers several tips on what to look for in malicious e-mails, calls or texts. Beware of requests for personal or confidential information on calls you did not initiate or requests to send by text or e-mail. Scams often make urgent requests with a deadline and may include lots of spelling or grammatical errors. Steer clear of offers that sound “too good to be true.”
According to Sergeant Jonathan Collin of the Toronto Police Service, Willowdale has also become one of the more active neighbourhoods in the city for high-end car theft from driveways. TPS has recorded a recent spike in this activity. Though all incidents are being thoroughly investigated, Sgt. Collin also provides a number of tips to help protect your vehicle, including:
Park in the garage, if possible, or strategically park vehicles in the driveway so less valuable vehicles are blocking ones that are more valuable.
Store your key fob in the middle of your house, in a signal-blocking container.
Install an anti-theft system in your vehicle (such as a steering wheel locking device).
Direct lights to brighten your driveway and direct any external cameras in that direction
Avoid leaving valuables, or garage door remotes in the vehicle.
Residents can also be vigilant about keeping an eye on their neighbours’ homes and reporting any suspicious activity they might observe to their neighbours or to TPS 32 Division at 416-808-3200. Anyone witnessing a crime in progress should immediately dial 9-1-1.
For more information on cyber security or scams:
Canadian Centre for Cyber Security – Protect Yourself From Scams
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – COVID-19 fraud
Toronto Police Service – Protect Yourself during COVID-19