Beware these COVID vaccine scams

There’s never a quiet moment when it comes to scams. There are the tax time scams, the NBN scams, the Centrelink scams, the dating scams. Now, with the imminent rollout of the COVID vaccines in Australia, there’s a whole new area for scammers to attempt to exploit. 

And they’re already on to it after honing their ‘skills’ in other countries where the vaccines are already being distributed.

Jacqueline Jayne, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, has issued an alert for Australians to be on the lookout for vaccine-related scams such as those already circulating in the UK. 

“Whenever there is a newsworthy incident or event, criminals are quick to jump on the bandwagon with phishing scams and attacks to try to obtain personal details, compromise organisations, or steal money,” she said.

“With Australia on high alert for news about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, it’s only a matter of time until the bad guys try to take advantage of this news by crafting new attacks.”

She said scams were already rife in the UK where cybercriminals were creating fake vaccine registration pages to capture personal information. 

Read more: Online thieves are targeting elderly Australians more than ever

One scam involved a fake text message purporting to be from the UK’s National Health Service.

The message prompted receivers to click through to an NHS-themed website that then asked for a series of personal details the hackers could sell on the dark web.

“Australians should be particularly suspicious of any vaccine-themed emails or text messages,” she said, “especially those containing attachments or instructing them to click on a link. These messages could very well be part of a social engineering attack.”

Given the challenging times individuals and businesses are immersed in, Ms Jayne said it was super important that people remained vigilant as to which links they clicked on and where they shared any personal information. 

“When in doubt, people should contact their doctor or healthcare provider through tried and trusted channels and not give any information to unknown websites, text messages, or phone calls.”

Read more: ACMA releases new rules to detect, trace and block scam calls

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch website reports that it has received more than 5000 reports about scams relating to the pandemic and that Australian victims had already lost $6.3 million to COVID-related scams.

“Scamwatch urges everyone to be cautious and remain alert to coronavirus-related scams,” Scamwatch advises. “Scammers are hoping that you have let your guard down. Do not provide your personal, banking or superannuation details to strangers who have approached you.”

It says scammers are pretending to be government agencies providing information on COVID-19 through text messages and emails ‘phishing’ for your information. “These contain malicious links and attachments designed to steal your personal and financial information.”

In the examples below, the text messages appear to come from ‘GOV’ and ‘myGov’, with a malicious link to more information on COVID-19.

If you have been scammed or have seen a scam, you can make a report on the Scamwatch website, and find more information about where to get help.

Does the proliferation of scams worry you? Will you be super cautious about any information – true or fake – relating to COVID vaccines?

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Written by Janelle Ward



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