Watch out for these coronavirus (COVID-19) scams

As if coronavirus isn’t worrying enough, sadly scammers are taking advantage of people’s anxiety and vulnerability to try and steal money, personal data and financial information. Here are some of the top scams to be aware of.

1. The coronavirus vaccine scam

Scammers are sending out official-looking emails and messages claiming to be from doctors, scientists or researchers telling them about a vaccine for Coronavius. While institutions around the world are working towards a COVID-19 vaccine, there isn’t one yet. If there was, it would be headline news. So don’t let scammers coerce you into paying for a vaccine that doesn’t exist.

2. World Health Organization information scam

If you receive an email purporting to be from the World Health Organization telling you to click on a link to access the latest information on COVID-19, along with some online training – don’t click on it! Delete the email. It’s a scam that will download malware onto your device that will steal your personal info.

3. Australian Government COVID-19 testing scam

These fake texts impersonate the Government, appearing to come from “GOV” or “myGOV”. The messages state you can get the latest info about the symptoms for coronavirus, how you can get tested and the current restrictions, by clicking on a link. The link is malicious and is designed to steal your personal and banking information. Never click on links in suspicious texts. Delete the messages straight away. Up-to-date Victorian Government information on COVID-19 can be found here

4. Bogus government subsidy scam

This “subsidy benefit allocation” phishing email is doing the rounds, asking you to confirm your eligibility for the subsidy by providing your name, address, date of birth and tax file number. It even looks fairly legit with the Australian Government logo, security message and official-looking layout. Don’t reply to the email, don’t give your personal and financial information; just delete it immediately.

5. Woollies and Coles vouchers scams

Scammers are impersonating Woolworths and Coles in viral private messages and texts, claiming to be giving away free $250 vouchers “to support the nation during the Corona pandemic”. Don’t click on the link or share it with others. Delete it straight away.

6. “Stay at home” payment scam

This is one of those “too good to be true” scams – an email stating that you’ll be receiving a payment for staying at home during the COVID-19 crisis. The attached file titled “COVID 19 Relief” is malicious and will infect your device. Don’t open the attachment and delete the email immediately.

7. Early access to super scam

Scammers are using the early release of superannuation funds during the COVID-19 emergency to call unsuspecting victims and claim they can help you get early access to your money. They’re really after your valuable super and personal info. So don’t give it to them. Just hang up.

8. Fake ads for face masks scam

Scammers are taking advantage of the global demand for face masks and sanitiser by posting fake online ads, sometimes accompanied by bogus positive reviews. Once you’ve paid for the item, you never receive the products. If you are buying items online, only use trusted websites for your purchases and, where possible, use a platform like PayPal for payment, which provides extra security and refund guarantees.

9. Pets for sale that don’t exist scam

Self-isolating at home can be lonely, especially if you live alone. Some people might be considering getting a furry friend to keep them company. There are reports of scammers posting ads for popular-breed puppies at high prices, when they don’t exist. Always research sellers and buy from registered breeders. Or, better still, adopt a pet from a legitimate rescue or shelter. But only get a pet if you have the time, money and resources to look after it properly and welcome it as member of your family.

10. Free Netflix Scam

We’d all love some free Netflix right now, but this one is just a text message phishing scam. Don’t fall for it! Netflix is not offering 3 months of free Premium streaming to help you pass the time at home during COVID-19 self-isolation. Don’t click on the link – just delete the message.

11. Computer tech support scam

Scammers pretend to be someone from a computer or telecommunications company. They claim that a large company like Microsoft, Telstra or the NBN has outsourced their tech support to an external supplier due to COVID-19. They then state your computer has a virus, or that your internet has been hacked, and request remote access to find the problem and fix it. Do not give them access to your computer or any of your information. Simply hang up on them.

12. Update your bank details scam

These fake emails and text messages look like they’re coming from one of the major banks. They advise you that they are protecting your security during the COVID-19 pandemic and need you to review and update your personal and bank details by clicking on the link provided. They threaten you’ll be locked out of your accounts if you don’t. Don’t click on the link. The scammers will use the info to access your accounts. Delete the message straight away.

13. Fake COVID-19 insurance scam

These fake text messages and emails confirm your bogus COVID-19 or coronavirus insurance coverage and ask you to click on a link to review your payment information and access your invoice. Don’t click on the link as the scammers are trying to steal your personal and financial information. Delete the message.

What to do if you get scammed

  • Report the scam to ScamWatch.
  • Contact any financial institution you bank with.
  • Run a full system virus check of your computer and change all your passwords.
  • For stolen identity contact iDcare, a free government-funded service which can help you with your situation.
  • Apply for a Commonwealth Victim’s Certificate which can be used to help you re-establish your credentials with government and financial institutions.
  • Alert your friends and family and, if you’re a small business, let your industry association or business contacts know about the scam.
  • Beware of a “follow-up” scammer who says they’re from a law enforcement agency calling to investigate your case for a fee.

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus (COVID-19) scams visit ScamWatch.