Scammers using fears over COVID-19 to fleece Australians

Australians should be aware scammers are adapting existing technology to play on people’s fears around coronavirus.

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Australians should be aware scammers are adapting existing technology to play on people’s fears around coronavirus and selling products claiming to prevent or cure the virus.

Since 1 January 2020, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch has received 94 reports of scams about coronavirus, but warns figures are starting to climb.

Scamwatch has received multiple reports of phishing scams sent via email or text message that claim to be providing official information on coronavirus but are actually just attempts to try and obtain personal data.

“Unfortunately, scammers are using the uncertainty around COVID-19, or coronavirus, to take advantage of people,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

Other scams include people receiving misinformation about cures for coronavirus and investment scams claiming coronavirus has created opportunities to make money.

“We’ve had a wide variety of scams reported to us, including fake online stores selling products claiming to be a vaccine or cure for coronavirus, and stores selling products such as face masks and not providing the goods.

“There is no known vaccine or cure for coronavirus and a vaccine isn’t expected to be available for 18 months. Do not buy any products that claim to prevent or cure you of COVID-19. They simply don’t exist.

“Scammers are impersonating official organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health or legitimate businesses such as travel agents and telecommunications companies,” Ms Rickard said.

“Understandably, people want information on the pandemic, but they should be wary of emails or text messages claiming to be from experts. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation websites directly.”

If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

More information on coronavirus scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.

If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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