Aussies have been swindled out of $1.7m in Covid-19 related scams

Jul 17, 2020
Scamwatch has issued a warning for consumers to be extra cautious during this time. Source: Getty.

It seems scammers are taking full advantage of vulnerable Australians and have started focusing heavily on coronavirus-related scams. Scamwatch, the national watchdog run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), revealed that over 3,400 reported scams have mentioned coronavirus, adding up to more than $1,790,000 in reported losses, since the outbreak of the pandemic earlier this year.

The most common scams include phishing for personal information, online shopping and superannuation scams. Consumers have been warned that scammers are looking for those who’ve let their guard down amid a confusing time and will use the opportunity to ask for personal, banking or superannuation details.

Scammers often pretend they have some kind of connection to their targets by fronting as a trusted organisation such as governments, banks or superannuation companies. To help consumers stay vigilant, Scamwatch laid out some of the most common scams to recognise and report but warned consumers to take extra care regardless and always report if there are any doubts at all.

One of the big ones to look out for are government impersonation scams which involve scammers pretending to be government agencies providing information on Covid-19. They’ll usually send through a text or email that ‘phishes’ for personal information and also generally contains malicious links or attachments that are designed to steal straight from the pockets of consumers.

Examples of the emails show a signed letter from MP Greg Hunt warning victims that they’ve been in contact with confirmed Covid-19 cases and asks they click into an attachment and follow the prompts. Others show texts with links guiding people to fake sites about where to get tested in their area while some include messages from a fake myGov account saying the ATO is sending through a mass refund.

There are also fake economic support payment texts circulating surrounding the second $750 supplement, fake government subsidy phishing scams and fake ATO tax credit emails. Meanwhile, banks, insurance companies, travel agents, online stores and telco companies are all also being used as fronts for scammers to infiltrate personal accounts and access information.

Superannuation is also a big one with scammers found to be calling customers pretending to be their super fund or another financial service talking about the government’s early release scheme where they then ask questions such as:

  • Have you worked full time for the last five years?
  • Are you going to apply for the $10,000 superannuation package?

Additionally, they could also be claiming that inactive super accounts will be locked if not merged immediately.

Protection is key and Scamwatch urged all Australians to maintain extra caution around any kind of email or text received no matter how genuine it looks at face value. The watchdog warned people to never click on hyperlinks in texts, emails or social media messages and instead go directly to the source.

If someone receives a call, text or email that is asking for any kind of personal information, never provide it straight away and never give remote access to your computer to anyone. Instead, verify the source by hanging up the phone or not clicking on any links and calling directly.

For instance, people can call banks, financial institutions and superannuation companies through the number on the company site or from a phone book or head straight to websites such as my.gov.au to access personal account to check for additional information.

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Have you experienced any of these scams? Have you noticed an increase in scams?

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