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Scammers scheduling fake COVID-19 tests to steal personal information

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British Columbians who recently received an unsolicited phone call, email or text message offering to help them book a COVID-19 test might want to confirm their appointment actually exists.

With limited access to PCR and rapid testing in the province, the Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C. warns that scammers have been setting up fake appointments to steal personal information from their victims.

That information can include anything from names to birthdays to personal health numbers.

"In most cases, consumers will receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a medical professional or public health employee, asking you to make a COVID-19 test appointment," the BBB said in a news release.

A number of similar incidents have already been reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. In one version, the scammer sends an email or text message pretending to be a local drug store or a work colleague, often including a link to a form full of personal questions to fill out.

The BBB said in one alarming incident, a woman found a fake travel agency online and called the phone number hoping to get information on testing. "They proceeded to tell her that for them to write her an emergency note to allow her to travel and take a COVID-19 test, she would be required to send payment via Google gift cards," the BBB said.

The organization urged test-seekers to understand the available options where they live, including where legitimate PCR and rapid tests are available. Those seeking a private test should only do so at an authorized clinic.

Information on collection centres and authorized clinics is available on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.

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