Scammers pounce on pandemic opportunities, warns BBB

Better Business Bureau issues warning about phone and email scams that play on people's fears regarding COVID-19

While Canadians struggle to adjust their daily lives to the realities of a global pandemic, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning scammers are poised to take advantage of our anxiety.

The BBB is telling consumers to be wary of fraudulent health products or miracle cures being touted by scammers in emails and on websites, according to a press release. So far, there’s no approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat coronavirus.

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BBB also cautioning against scam emails that claim to be from the World Health Organization requesting personal information or from fake fundraising efforts to support government efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The BBB says its also received reports of scam websites claiming to sell face masks.

“Unfortunately, phoney online stores abound — especially when an item is in high demand,” the organization said in a press release, adding consumers should only buy from reputable stores and websites, and ensure any online store they frequent has working contact information before submitting personal and credit card information.


The BBB is also offering advice to consumers dealing with event cancellations:

• Review the venue’s cancellation policy to find out how it handles refunds or exchanges for rescheduled events.

• Check with your credit card company to determine how it handles refunds. If the venue is denying a refund, you may be able to dispute the charge.

• If you purchased tickets online, any refund may be automatically processed through the credit card you used to buy them.

• If you paid for ticket insurance, check to see if it applies.

• Contact the vendor that sold you the tickets.


And if the coronavirus pandemic has impacted your travel plans, the BBB is recommending:

• Check with airlines and cruise operators to determine if your travel plans are affected. Even if they haven’t but you’re hesitant to take a risk, rebooking fees may be waived.

• If you’re considering travel in the future, check cancellation policies in case the pandemic continues.

• Consider your risk before travelling or booking a trip.

• If you buy travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print. Most policies won’t pay out just because you’re afraid to travel. Look for one that covers cancellations “for any reason.”

• That bargain ticket can come with a steep price if you have to change your plans, as such tickets usually offer little or no flexibility to cancel or rebook.

• And, as always, be wary of scammers, as the BBB says travel scams were amongst the riskiest for Canadian consumers last year.


The BBB said while the coronavirus pandemic is bad news for Canadian consumers, they need to remain vigilant and find reliable sources to stay informed.

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