Misinformation abounds during the COVID-19 crisis, and scammers never rest either. For them, this is just one more opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting targets, especially elderly victims who may be more trusting.
With March being Fraud Prevention Month in B.C., Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers warns not only do the usual financial scams, cyber-fraud, fake CRA phone calls and other crimes remain all around us, they’re joined this year by coronavirus scams.
The Canadian Fraud Centre is maintaining a national running list of COVID-19 scams which so far includes:
- Duct cleaning companies offering services or “special” filters to protect from COVID-19.
- Utilility companies threatening to disconnect power for non-payment.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the World Health Organization (WHO) selling fake
- lists of COVID-19 infected people living near you.
- Offers of fake COVID-19 tests, which are only administered by health authorities.
- Public Health Agency of Canada allegedly asking for your health card and credit card numbers for a COVID-19 prescription.
- Charities like the Red Cross offering free medical products (e.g. masks) for a donation.
- People selling household decontamination services door to door.
“Fraud is as much a crime as any other, yet only five per cent of the tips Crime Stoppers receives relate to fraudulent crime,” says Linda Annis, Executive Director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers. “Fraud costs Canadians millions of dollars and criminals shouldn’t get away with it. If you call us and pass on information on a fraudulent crime, we guarantee you will be totally anonymous, never go to court and could be eligible for a cash reward.”
Additional warnings have also been issued by international agencies including INTERPOL. Some examples:
- Fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses – offers of masks and other medical supplies for sale have sprung up online. Unsuspecting victims who order from fraudulent ones never get their goods and see their money disappear.
- Impersonating legitimate companies – using similar names, websites, email addresses and messages on social media platforms. This includes the World Health Organization (WHO) which has issued a warning of its own.
- Fake charity appeals – attempts to get the recipient’s money allegedly to fund vaccine for children in China. There is no vaccine yet for the novel coronavirus.
- Telephone fraud – Interpol says criminals may call pretending to be clinic or hospital officials and claim that a relative of the victim has the virus and needs money for medical treatment.
- Phishing – emails claiming to be from national or global health authorities ask victims to provide financial details, or open an attachment containing malware.
An Ounce of Prevention – here are some additional tips from Interpol for those shopping online:
- Be wary of unsolicited emails offering medical equipment or requesting your personal information for medical checks. Legitimate health authorities do not contact the general public in this manner.
- Be aware of bogus websites – criminals will often use a web address which looks almost identical to a legitimate one, e.g. “abc.org” instead of “abc.com“.
- Check out online reviews of a company before making a purchase.
- Be wary if asked to make a payment to a bank account located in a different country than where the company is located.
- If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, alert your bank immediately so the payment can be stopped.
About Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers
Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers is a non-profit society and registered charity that offers rewards for anonymous tip information about criminal activity and provides it to investigators in the communities of Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Anonymous tips may be provided though Crime Stoppers’ downloadable “P3″ app for Apple and Android phones, calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online at solvecrime.ca, or by following the link on the Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers Facebook page. Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers accepts tips in 115 different languages and will pay a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of a criminal, recovery of stolen property, seizure of illegal drugs or guns or denial of a fraudulent insurance claim. Tipsters stay anonymous by using code numbers to check back later and collect their rewards.
“Hello South Asians” initiative provides free COVID-19 Info in 20+ South Asian Languages
Three postgraduate South Asian women – Serene Singh (University of Oxford), Ravina Anand (University of British Columbia), and Nandini Kochar (New York University Abu Dhabi), have created 100+ COVID-19 Informational Media Content and Infographics in 20+ South Asian languages with the help of students from over 53 countries worldwide in an aim to address misinformation, reduce panic, and provide free, accessible, and accurate content for South Asians everywhere.
Despite living in three different parts of the world, we have identified one common issue: South Asian families, parents, and youth are not getting correct information about the pandemic. This has manifested into many negative effects in our communities across the globe including panic attacks among other mental health issues, discrimination between South Asian community members and neighbors, and inadvertently making the job and responsibilities of public health workers more difficult in a multitude of ways.
With many South Asian families on social media platforms including Whatsapp group chats increasingly sharing contradictory and inaccurate information, this team of women sees this as a major threat to the public health systems and the mental health of South Asians globally in the coming future.
Singh states, “South Asians are remarkably diverse worldwide from every angle of the word – technologically, linguistically, culturally, socially, etc., but often live in shared areas. This means that any misinformation has intensified and echoed negative effects throughout communities. Without first having accurate information in the language of a community, our world can’t address the myriad of issues related to the pandemic we are now seeing. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate and as such, neither should access to information about it.”
To challenge this issue, the team has developed interactive infographics in 20+ languages widely spoken by South Asians worldwide. Additionally, the team has created 100+ shareable media content for easy printing in areas without widespread technology, as well as distribution on all major social media channels. The languages included are as follows: Arabic, Assamese, Balochi, Bangla, English, Farsi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malay, Odia, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Pashto, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Sinhala, Tamil, & Telugu.
While these languages do not represent all South Asian linguistic diversity and breadth, Hello South Asians is hoping to continue to add languages, make changes, and help this project reach more of our communities with your support. We welcome any individuals or organizations who are interested in helping us become even more inclusive – an element critical to our mission and vision.
The info graphics have been prepared with the guidance and advice of reliable sources like the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, among others. Within the team of students from around the, we have medical professionals, trained journalists, doctors, policy analysts, and public health experts. Students from 53+ countries have helped translate the documents to their native tongues. Their goal with these infographics is to make accurate information, from reliable sources, to go viral in our South Asian communication streams.
Moreover, the team is in the works of developing their Ambassador Program for young people around the world to get involved in the project from the comfort of their homes. With the accessible material made by Hello South Asians and the many translators, the Ambassadors will be tasked to ensure the safe and effective delivery of this information in their various communities.
This will require creativity and a diverse range of solutions to ensure those who cannot access the internet regularly and/or do not understand English can receive the necessary information to keep safe and stay positive in this difficult time.
Kochar states, “The growing issue of misinformation and misleading journalism can have grave effects on all of us, especially communities with little to no access to reliable sources of public health information. This is precisely the gap we are trying to fill – creatively and digitally. Through evidence-based and culturally-relevant information, we are aiming to reach every region, village, household, and Whatsapp group in South Asia.”
To learn more about Hello South Asians and how you can support them with additional South Asian language translations or other content to challenge misinformation and promote positive mental health and curate factual information across our diaspora in this challenging time, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anand states, “We believe it is our duty to protect our community globally and do our part to help make life better for one another. Our work exists but we are relying on you all to help us get our message out there so it actually can help the people who we are hoping it will help. Join our team and support our vision – we are always ready to do more to strengthen our community.”
Learn more about Hello South Asians by visiting the links below:
Join the Global Ambassador Program: https://hellosouthasians.com/join-us
Partner with Us: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1velmTwzmRReyk9POtFKuU0CCKV2-7hCzNJtEE_zyGwA/prefill
Learn more about the Co-Founders of Hello South Asians by visiting the links below:
Domestic violence on the rise during pandemic; anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers wanted
The tensions that can emerge from being quarantined at home day- after-day with the same people are starting to reveal themselves in the latest statistics on domestic violence.
Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers urges anyone with information on any specific case of domestic abuse to call and provide anonymous information.
“With no sign yet of the stay-at home orders being lifted, people may know of friends, neighbours, or even relative strangers down the street who may be suffering abuse at the hands of a spouse or partner. Many people don’t want to get involved, but an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers may put an end to it, or even save a life,” says Linda Annis, Executive Director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers.
Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services reports a 300 per cent spike in calls to its crisis line since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
A similar trend is reported elsewhere in places like New York City, and United Nations Secretary- General António Guterres pointed out recently that violence is not confined to the battlefield. He said, “For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest – in their own homes” due to COVID-19 lockdowns. He’s calling for what he calls “peace in the home”.
“With the pandemic deepening and domestic violence worsening here in B.C and around the world, we should all be vigilant. If you know someone who’s a victim, an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers means the information will get to someone who can investigate,” says Linda Annis.
Do you know a victim of domestic violence? Some common signs that someone may be abused at home:
- Their partner may be jealous, possessive or excessively controlling
- Their partner may insult them in front others
- They constantly worry about making their partner angry
- They make excuses for their partner’s behaviour
- They have unexplained marks or injuries
- A noticeable change in normal behaviour; no longer spend time with friends and family
About Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers is a non-profit society and registered charity that offers rewards for anonymous tip information about criminal activity and provides it to investigators in the communities of Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Anonymous tips may be provided though Crime Stoppers’ downloadable “P3” app for Apple and Android phones, calling Crime Stoppers at 1-855-448-8477 (new number) or 1-800-222- 8477, online at solvecrime.ca, or by following the link on the Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers Facebook page.
Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers accepts tips in 115 different languages and will pay a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of a criminal, recovery of stolen property, seizure of illegal drugs or guns or denial of a fraudulent insurance claim. Tipsters stay anonymous by using code numbers to check back later and collect their rewards.
Invisible to Essential – Justice for Janitors campaign
More respect for hard work: Janitors launch campaign demanding better pay and work conditions during COVID-19
The Service Employees International Union Local 2 has launched the Invisible to Essential campaign, calling on property owners, managers and cleaning contractors to work together to make immediate improvements to cleaner’s working conditions. SEIU Local 2 represents more than 10,000 janitors across Canada.
“I have to work even though there is great risk to my own health,” said Vilma Lopez, a janitor working in Burnaby, BC. “We are providing an important service to the public and deserve more respect for our hard work.”
The campaign demands include an immediate $2 per hour raise; keeping cleaners employed during the crisis; and ensuring all cleaners are working safely with the required training and Personal Protect Equipment (PPE).
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many invisible service workers being thrust into the spotlight. Despite this, janitors continue to be amongst the lowest paid and most underappreciated workers in our society. Janitors say every worker needs to earn enough to pay the bills, job protection, and appropriate health safeguards.
Slim Gedeon cleans City Hall in the nation’s capital. “At least now society understands how important and essential we are,” he says. “We are the ones disinfecting to keep our city safe. I am constantly disinfecting elevator buttons, doorknobs and working hard to ensure the virus does not spread.”
Janitors face the triple threats of layoffs, low wages, and health impacts of COVID-19. They ensure our essential workplaces are kept clean, including healthcare facilities, public transportation systems, airports, vital shopping locations, courthouses, morgues, parcel delivery facilities, police stations, office buildings, and more. Janitors will also be deep cleaning our shutdown workplaces to ready them for the return of the public when the time comes. These include the schools, colleges, and universities our children attend.
The janitors’ union has been in contact with employers since the beginning of the crisis, ensuring all required safety measures were being met. Most recently an open letter was delivered addressing the government’s new position on mask-wearing.
“People say that we are important, but do they really treat us that way?” Gedeon wonders. In just a few days, a public petition supporting the janitors’ demands has received over one thousand signatures.
More information can be accessed at: www.justiceforjanitors.ca/campaigns/from-invisible- to-essential/
SEIU Local 2 represents janitors in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
More Firework Complaints For Diwali Than Halloween
According to the Surrey RCMP, Diwali received more fireworks-related complaints this year than Halloween.
Diwali is a festival that is celebrated around the world, mostly by South Asians. It was celebrated on Sunday with a bang. The fireworks drew 147 complaints to the Surrey RCMP.
Meanwhile Halloween resulted in 121 fireworks-related complaints on Thursday.
Constable Richard Wright said the numbers were tracked “over the course of the day” for both festivities. “The bulk of it would be in the evening, because that’s when fireworks are set off. I don’t think there was a specific time constraint put on that stat. It would be during the evening of.”
On Halloween, police dispatchers received 359 calls for service during the nightshift. “That’s just nightshift, just Halloween night,” Sturko said.
Typically when there are no holidays and festivals going on, the Surrey RCMP receives about 125 to 260 calls in the evenings.
Surrey Man Missing for Over 2 Weeks
The Surrey RCMP is asking the public to help solve the disappearance of 66-year-old Allan McCrea.
McCrea was last seen on Sept. 23 in the 15900 block of Fraser Highway, near Fleetwood Park Village.
He is approximately 5’5″ tall, weighs about 170 pounds, has blue eyes and long, dark brown hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a blue denim shirt, a black jacket, and Sperry brand beige shoes.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502.
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