Scammers are targeting Aussies during the COVID-19 crisis.
Scammers are targeting Aussies during the COVID-19 crisis.

Phone call you should never answer

More than 1000 coronavirus-related scams have been circulating since the pandemic began - and the government is warning Australians to remain vigilant.

According to the government's Scamwatch website, the most common types include phishing for personal information, online shopping, and superannuation scams.

"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," the website states.

"Scammers may pretend to have a connection with you. So it's important to stop and check, even when you are approached by what you think is a trusted organisation."

Here's a round up of the most common COVID-19 scams - and how to protect yourself.

PHISHING

This involves scammers "phishing" for your personal information, by pretending to be government agencies providing virus information via text or email which contain malicious links designed to steal your information.

They may also impersonate government agencies and pretend to offer help in applying for financial assistance

To protect yourself, never click on links in messages or emails, even if the source seems genuine - instead, visit the website directly yourself.

Next, never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details, even if they claim to be from a reputable organisation or government authority - just press delete or hang up.

Other impersonation scams involve scammers pretending to be from real businesses such as banks, travel agents, insurance providers and telco companies, and using various excuses around COVID-19 to ask for your personal and financial information, lure you into opening malicious links or attachments, gain remote access to your computer or seek payment for a fake service or something you did not purchase.

Again, ignore these attempts and never provide a stranger remote access to your computer, even if they claim to be from a telco company such as Telstra or the NBN Co.

SUPER SCAMS

Another scam involves attempting to steal victims' superannuation or offering unnecessary services and charging a fee.

The majority of these scams start with an unexpected call claiming to be from a superannuation or financial service.

The scammers use a variety of excuses to request information about your superannuation accounts, including offering to help you access the money in your superannuation, ensuring you're not locked out of your account under new rules or checking whether your superannuation account is eligible for various benefits or deals.

During a superannuation scam call, the scammer will typically ask questions such as "Have you worked full time for the last five years?" or "Are you going to apply for the $10,000 superannuation package?"

Scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19 to strike.
Scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19 to strike.

They may also falsely claim that inactive super accounts will be locked if not merged immediately.

Again, never give any information about your superannuation to someone who has contacted you, and hang up and verify their identity by calling the relevant organisation directly.

ONLINE SHOPPING SCAMS

Scammers have 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.

The best tip to uncover a fake trader is to search for reviews before buying.

It's also important to watch out for sellers requesting unusual payment methods such as upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency like Bitcoin.

SCAMS TARGETING BUSINESSES

Other scammers are using COVID-19 in business email compromise scams by pretending to be a supplier or business you usually deal with.

To avoid falling victim, verify any request to change bank details by contacting the supplier directly using trusted contact details you have previously used.

Consider a multi-person approval process for transactions over a certain dollar amount, with processes in place to ensure the business billing you is the one you normally deal with, and keep the security on your network and devices up-to-date, and have a good firewall to protect your data.

Businesses can also sign up to the ACCC's Small Business Information Network to receive emails about new or updated resources, enforcement action, changes to Australia's competition and consumer laws, events, surveys and scams relevant to the small business sector.

If you have been scammed or encountered a potential scam, you're encouraged to report it to Scamwatch.



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