VICTORIA -- With B.C. in a public state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial RCMP are warning British Columbians of a rise in scams and fraud cases related to the health crisis.

According to the RCMP, fraudsters are preying upon peoples' fears and desires to protect their health, and "COVID-19 scams are spreading like the virus."

Scams related to COVID-19 generally include selling private test kits, advertising unverified treatments for the illness or sending mass texts, emails or phone calls to try to reveal private information.

Police say that there are "currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19" and that British Columbians should not purchase any such medications.

RCMP add that vaccines are expected to become available to the general public eventually and that such treatments will be dispersed by legitimate government health authorities.

Police are also reminding residents that fraudsters may use a scamming technique called "spoofing," which is designed to mask phone calls, texts or emails to appear as though they’re coming from a legitimate institution.

RCMP say that anyone looking for information about COVID-19 should only check legitimate sources, like the BC Centre for Disease Control, and should not respond to unsolicited emails or texts.

A list of some of the most commonly used fraud techniques related to coronavirus, compiled by RCMP, are:

  • Fraud: Private companies offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale
  • Fact: Only hospitals can perform the test, no other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results
  • Fraud: Door-to-door solicitors offering fake decontamination services
  • Fact: Follow direction of the Provincial Health Authority to decontaminate your home and reduce your personal risk.
  • Fraud: Fraudsters posing as police have been imposing on-the-spot fines to consumers wearing masks claiming that wearing a mask in public goes against a full-face veil law
  • Fact: It isn't illegal to wear a mask for health reasons
  • Fraud: Fraudsters urge you to invest in hot new stocks related to the virus
  • Fact: You should only ever purchase stocks through reputable sources and banking institutions.
  • Fraud: Fraudsters sending emails, texts or online campaigns that capitalize on the public's fears about Covid-19
  • Fact: Do not respond to unsolicited email, texts or phone calls. Don’t click on any links or give any information about yourself. If you have any doubts about where the email came from, make sure to check the identity of the sender., if you receive a suspicious phone call, hang-up.
  • Fraud: Fraudsters are creating fraudulent and deceptive online ads offering: cleaning products, hand sanitizers, other items in high demand
  • Fact: Buy from companies or individuals you know by reputation or from past experience. Before checking out, make sure you’re still on a reputable website and have not been redirected to a third-party page. Beware of sellers from far away or that have limited or no reviews. Use a credit card when shopping online; many offer protection and may give you a refund. Regularly check your credit card statements for frequent or unknown charges.

Anyone who believes they have been contacted by a scammer is asked to file a report online to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

If you have been a victim of fraud and have lost money, valuables or personal information RCMP recommend that you contact your local police.