COVID-19: The Emergence of New Financial Scams

As if the world is not experiencing enough turmoil and distress due to the coronavirus, scammers and opportunists are taking this chance to exploit the vulnerable to make a dollar or two.

Canadians know that there is assistance available for them, but some people who are a little less tech-savvy have been targeted by dishonest people who are charging them for access to the money that they’re eligible for.

Today, we’re going to talk about CERB and scams related to unemployment fraud.

What is CERB?

CERB, short for Canada Emergency Response Benefit, is the name given to the economic disaster response introduced to help people who have lost jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The payout is $2000 CAD per month for people who are unemployed due to COVID19 and are not eligible for regular EI.

In order to qualify, your job must have been impacted by COVID-19. This could mean that your job was deemed non-essential and shut down. It could also mean that you got sick with the virus or you had to quit your job to take care of somebody with the virus.

Additional benefits were given to those with dependent children.

What is CERB Fraud?

CERB fraud—which refers to scams related to Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)—has been one of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus.

Money is often a weak spot for people, especially when they are in need. With the great loss of jobs due to the virus, many people are left unable to feed their families and pay those bills.

Canada has put a plan into action to help unemployed people get the money they need to make it through this tough time. Unfortunately, scammers have begun to take advantage of these vulnerable people.

Unauthorized people are posing as CERB representatives and targeting seniors who may not totally understand the benefits that they are eligible for. They are promising access to funding in exchange for 10% of the payout.

Technically, what these people are doing is legal. There was no clause written into the act that approved the Canadian Emergency Response benefit that forbids third parties from acting as a middleman in this exchange.

Absolutely no middleman is required to receive government funding.

However, the government braced for this fraudulent activity before rolling out CERB, and officials are not overly concerned.

Examples of COVID19 Scams

1) There was one woman in particular who went by the name Joanne who seems to be at the forefront of the scheme. Joanne targeted senior citizens who are most likely ineligible for CERB assistance.

The results looked something like this:

Joanne helped people get $2000 per month that they were not eligible for and took her 10% cut of $200. Since the people were ineligible, they will need to pay back the money to the federal government. This means that the $200 is lost to Joanne but still must be paid back.

This woman successfully took advantage of nearly 80 seniors living in or connected to one retirement community.

2) Another scam that has been happening is that people are people contacting Canadians under the guise of being the government or a healthcare worker and asking them for their healthcare card number. This information can be used to acquire more data for identity theft and create fraudulent medical service charges.

The Penalties of Unemployment Fraud

People who were unqualified but still received money are required to pay the money back and may face additional fines or jail time.

At this time, there is no definitive penalty for the people who are intervening with CERB payouts and charging people to access their money. The matter has been brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and will hopefully be dealt with before more people are exploited.

According to a notice from Employment and Social Development Canada, the Canadian government is advising those handling unemployment issues to be lenient and forgiving when it comes to potential fraudulent applications or claims.

How to Protect Yourself Against Fraud

The best way to protect yourself against fraud is by not accepting advice or services from anybody who is charging a fee.

Only provide information to people who you have reached out to first.

Please consult the official Canadian website for information and the CERB application portal.

→ Click here for the official CERB page. ←

Conclusion

At this point in time, there is very little that can be done about CERB scammers. The best you can do is be very careful about who you share your information with.

We also recommend warning your elderly family members so that they don’t fall into any fraudulent traps.

As always, we want to remind you that the Remitbee team is here to assist you in any way possible through these trying times.

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