It was inevitable. Scamsters have hit just about every other part of our lives, so why not COVID-19?

So it was sad  – but not unexpected – when the federal government had to ask the public to ignore a hoax text message suggesting receivers had been spotted breaking the lock-down laws by the new coronavirus contact-tracing app, COVIDSafe.

Almost two million have downloaded the app – good news for health authorities, and good news for scamsters, it seems.

The police are investigating who was behind something that plays straight into the arms of those who maintain the app is a privacy danger and want to deter people from using it.

“The COVIDSafe app has detected you are now 20+ km from your nominated home address,” one text message published in The Australian read.

The message gave the number for Centrelink.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch site (scamwatch.gov.au) has received over a thousand coronavirus-related scam reports since the outbreak of the pandemic, including online shopping and super cons.

Here are a few of the scammers’ favourites:

Pretending to be a Government official

The Scammers use text messages ostensibly coming from a government department providing information on COVID-19. The messages 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.

Examples of phishing scams impersonating government agencies

 

Here’s another pretending to offer help with financial assistance:

Pretending to be from banks or telephone companies

These are really old faithfuls dressed up with a coronavirus cover, and are little more than phishing expeditions for your personal details.

Super spoofer

And with superannuation withdrawals in the news, the Scammers are homing in on the fact that  many of us are communicating with our super funds.

It starts with an unexpected telephone call claiming to be from a superannuation or financial service. Perhaps you’d like help accessing your money? Have you been locked out due to new rules which have just been applied? Would you like us to check?

And hey – there are some new benefits we can help you apply for.

Another favourite is the suggestion that super accounts will be frozen if they are not merged immediately – something which, of course, the scammers can help you achieve.

Online shopping in the age of lockdown

Cure for coronavirus, anyone?  Look no further than the fake stores online created by scammers to showcase products that don’t exist: vaccinations for COVID-19, face masks.

Scammers use the latest technology to set up fake retailer websites that look like genuine online retail stores. They may use sophisticated designs and layouts, possibly stolen logos, and even a ‘.com.au’ domain name and stolen Australian Business Number (ABN).

Many of these websites offer luxury items such as popular brands of clothing, jewellery and electronics at very low prices. Sometimes you will receive the item you paid for but they will be fake, other times you will receive nothing at all.

The biggest tip-off that a retail website is a scam is the method of payment. Scammers will often ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card, or wire transfer, but if you send your money this way, it’s unlikely you will see it again or receive your purchased item.

Six ways to protect yourself, courtesy of MoneySmart.com.au

  • Use strong passwords
  • Secure your computer and mobile devices
  • Shop on secure websites
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi
  • Shred your documents
  • Check the lender is licensed by ASIC

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