Police warn of COVID-19 phishing scam

Ottawa police are warning the public about a new phishing scam that preys on people's fears during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fraudulent email claims recipient was in contact with confirmed case

The fake email, from someone claiming to be from The Ottawa Hospital, says the recipient was in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. (Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press)

Ottawa police are warning the public about a new phishing scam that preys on people's fears during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 2, Éric Gaudreau received an email from someone claiming to be an employee of The Ottawa Hospital. The email informed Gaudreau he'd come into contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

"You recently came into contact with a colleague/friend/family member who has COVID-19," the email reads. "Please print attached form that has your information prefilled and proceed to the nearest emergency clinic."

It's unclear what exactly the scammers were trying to do — whether the attachment contained some form of malicious software, whether it was an attempt to collect personal information, or something else.

"At the beginning, I wondered if I might have come across a person at Le Troquet," said Gaudeau, referring to the bar he owns in the Hull district of Gatineau, Que. "Right before we closed, I met a lot of people at work."

When Gaudreau called The Ottawa Hospital for an explanation, an actual staff member confirmed he'd received a fraudulent email and recommended he delete it immediately.

Sgt. Steven Desjourdy of the Ottawa police fraud unit said people should always make sure to verify the provenance of email messages before clicking on attachments and links, or taking any other action.

"If you have a doubt, or you're not sure, simply contact the source," Desjourdy said. "In this case, you contact the hospital directly by going on their website. Do not dial any numbers in the phishing text or email, do not click any links and do not provide information until you are 100 per cent sure."

With files from Radio-Canada's Kim Vallière

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