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Central Albertans are warned not to fall for affordability payment-related text scams

Don’t click on links from unknown senders, says Better Business Bureau
Albertans are being warned not to provide banking or personal information to scammers who are texting to try to take advantage of people, in relation to recent affordability payments. (Black Press file photo)

Red Deer resident Diane Paquette had just finished watching a TV news segment on scams when her phone pinged.

The text she received contained some broken English: “We’ve sustaining difficulties for your return regarding the HST-GST payments in the month of Jan - 2023.” She was also given a link to click on:

Paquette said she knew the government would never use an ungrammatical text and link to contact people, so never fell for the scam.

But she said two neighbours in her senior’s apartment building did click on the link. Fortunately, they grew suspicious and did not turn over the personal banking information that the scammers had asked for.

She worries that other people, particularly seniors who aren’t overly familiar with the internet or smartphones, could be duped.

The Alberta Government and the Better Business Bureau are warning Albertans about text scams, particularly related to the government and recently announced affordability payments.

The government stressed on its website that it will NOT send text messages or emails asking Albertans to submit personal or banking information to receive payments.

Eligible families, seniors, and the most vulnerable Albertans can apply online through a secure platform or in person, to receive their payments.

One Albertan received the scammy message: “Congratulations! You qualified for Alberta’s Affordability Action Plan relief payment. Fill out the secure form linked below to deposit your first payment.” The consumer was then redirected to a banking screen to choose his financial institution.

Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, President and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay said, “Scammers are opportunists, and they take advantage of announcements like this to try and get money and personal information.

“Ultimately they are after your cash and or identity.”

Government agencies do not communicate through text messages. Albertans should ignore instructions to text “STOP” or “NO” to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a real, active phone number.

Also, O’Sullivan-Andersen cautions people not to click on links from strangers as you could be directed to a dangerous website, or you could download malware (computer viruses) into your device.

The Alberta government has received reports of text messages attempting to defraud unsuspecting Albertans, including seniors and families who may be eligible for targeted relief payments.

In one scam text, people are asked to click on a link to register for automatic bank payments.

“Under no circumstance would Alberta’s government send emails or texts requesting information for the affordability program. Users should never click on links or provide personal or banking information to text messages or emails,” said Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovation.

A secure, online application portal for affordability payments was launched by the government on Jan. 18. Families with household incomes below $180,000 are eligible to receive $100 per month for six months for each dependent child under 18. Seniors 65 or older who have household incomes below $180,000 and do not receive the Alberta Seniors Benefit can also apply for monthly payments.

Anyone who cannot apply online can apply in person through any registry agent or Alberta Supports Centre.

Albertans who receive benefits through Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), Income Support or the Alberta Seniors Benefit, or services through the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program, are already registered for the program and will automatically receive payments.

If you think you’ve been the target of a scam, report concerns to the police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online, or by calling 1-888-495-8501.

For help with affordability payment applications, Albertans can call the account support line at 1-844-643-2789 or call the Affordability Action Plan Information Line at 1-844-644-9955.

They can also visit an Alberta Supports Centre in person.

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