AS THE COUNTRY continues to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, many people are spending more time on their mobile phones and online. But cruel scammers have seized the opportunity to try to take advantage of Australians, particularly those in society who are most vulnerable.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch revealed this week that it has received more than a thousand coronavirus-related scam reports since the outbreak, including phishing for personal information, online shopping, and superannuation scams.
Here are some of the current scams to be aware of:
According to Scamwatch, scammers are posing as government agencies and sending text message and emails to people under the guise of providing advice on coronavirus. However, the messages contain malicious links and attachments that are designed to steal your personal and financial information. One such scam sees people receiving a message allegedly from MyGov asking people to verify their identity by taking a photograph of themselves holding their photo ID and a dated piece of paper. Scammers are also imitating businesses, such as banks or supermarkets, in a bid to try and dupe Australians.
Scamwatch advises that you should never click on hyperlinks in text/social media messages or emails, even if they appear to come from a trusted source. Or, if someone contacts you and requests your personal information do not respond, simply press delete or end the call.
You could also check the legitimacy of a request by independently finding the contact details for the relevant agency, for example, Centrelink, and contacting them directly to verify the message you’ve received.
Financial assistance scams
One of the biggest impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak is the economic effect it has had, with many people facing unemployment, reduced wages or plummeting super balances. Cruel scammers are attempting to take advantage of this by posing as government agencies offering to help people with applications for financial assistance or payments for staying home.
Make sure you never click on hyperlinks in a message or email, even if it appears to have come from a reputable source. Instead, go directly to the website through your browser.
The majority of these scams start with an unexpected call claiming to be from a superannuation or financial service. Scammers then use a range of excuses in an attempt to gather information about your super account. These include offering to help you access the money in your superannuation, ensuring you’re not locked out of your account under alleged new rules and checking whether your superannuation account is eligible for various benefits or deals.
To protect yourself, Scamwatch says you should never give out any information about your super account to someone who has contacted you. You should hang up immediately and contact your super fund directly, but make sure you source the number independently using a phone book, past bill or online search.
Online shopping scams
Many people have turned to online shopping to keep themselves entertained during the lockdown, also reducing the need to leave the home. However, scammers have taken advantage of this and created fake online stores claiming to sell products that don’t exist, such as cures or vaccinations for Covid-19 and products such as face masks.
To protect yourself Scamwatch recommends doing a search for reviews of the store before making a purchase. It is also worth noting that there is currently no vaccine or cure for coronavirus. You should also be wary of sellers who make unusual payment requests, such as upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin.
What to do if you’ve been scammed If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam, or have come across a scam, you should make a report on the Scamwatch website. Depending on the type of scam you may also need to contact the police, your local Fair-Trading office, your financial institution or, if the scam was published on social media, you should also contact the platform.