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Scammers Using Fake COVID Notification Apps to Steal Money, User Data

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According to a CBC News report, countless fake websites and apps pretending to be run by the Canadian government are using the COVID-19 pandemic to steal money and user data, which are consistently being taken down by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

Covid alert jan 20

The Centre has helped remove more than 4,000 such fraudulent sites or email addresses since March, said spokesperson Evan Koronewski, while noting that these websites impersonate the government of Canada to “deliver fake COVID-19 exposure notification applications, designed to install malware on users devices.”

In some cases the sites were pretending to be the Public Health Agency of Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency, Koronewski added.

“This work continues each and every day as we identify and remove more of these fraudulent domains,” said Koronewski. He couldn’t say how many Canadians have been taken in by these particular scams.

But the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a separate federal organization, said between March 6, 2020, and Jan. 10, 2021, there were 8,583 Canadian victims of a wide range of COVID-19 fraud.

Any Canadians looking to download the government of Canada’s COVID Alert app should only do it from trusted app stores. Anyone who believes they may have received a fraudulent message via email or text is encouraged to report the activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Canada’s COVID Alert app is based on Google and Apple’s exposure notification framework, which leverages Bluetooth on devices for anonymous “handshakes” in the background. The app does not use GPS info or collect any user data. It has been vetted as safe by Canada’s privacy commissioner and provincial counterparts.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can anonymously alert others that may have been in contact using COVID Alert, by obtaining a one-time-use key from their provincial health authority.

Provinces currently supporting COVID Alert:

  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Nova Scotia
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Northwest Territories

Still waiting for:

  • Alberta (SHAME!)
  • British Columbia (SHAME!)
  • Nunavut
  • Yukon

Download links: 

As of January 19, COVID Alert has been downloaded 6.08 million times, with 16,522 people voluntarily entering in one-time keys, according to the federal government.

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