The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) released a memo on Tuesday saying it has surpassed 19,000 reports of criminals trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The centre said there’s been a rise in non-delivery scams related to the rising online demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). 

CAFC said there’s also an increase in scams offering medical and non-medical face masks, hand sanitizers, gloves and face shields.

Officials as well warned of scams around non-medical-related items like gym equipment, hot tubs, hair clippers, kids’ toys and pets. 

Animal scams, starting as classified ads for lower-priced or free animals, have specifically been common. 

CAFC said the majority of these feature puppies or kittens. 

After an exchange of messages, you are asked to send one payment after another and told that the money sent covers shipping, vaccinations, certificates, insurance, etc and eventually never receive the promised pet.

Warning signs

  • Be cautious of blowout sales or greatly reduced prices 
    • (e.g. 80%).
  • Notice text with spelling errors or references to the product as “the item”.
  • Beware of pets being offered at below market value.
  • If you are asked to pay any fee, then it is not free.

How to protect yourself

  • Know the market value of the product you are looking for.
  • Locate and verify the company’s contact information 
    • (address, phone number, email) before you buy.
  • Look for customer reviews and ratings from third-party sources.
  • Whenever possible, pick up a new pet and provide the payment in person.

If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, please contact your local police. 

If you want to report an instance of a scam, fraud or cybercrime, whether you are a victim or not, please use the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s Online Fraud Reporting System (FRS) or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.