4 big scams to be aware of during COVID-19

Scammers have cropped up everywhere since Coronavirus reared its ugly head. We’ve seen everything from phishing scams disguised as official update letters from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ministries of Health (MOH), to Coronavirus tips from healthcare experts.

A Chinese student in Perth lost $13,800 when scammers, claiming to be from the Shanghai Medical Centre, called to report her coronavirus results.

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You can also make fake purchase orders for face masks and sanitisers if you’re not careful, or purchase your groceries from a website that looks like a legitimate supermarket website.

In late April, Woolworths doubled its capacity for online grocery deliveries, as it prepared for a sustained spike in online demand. Woolworths is expecting e-commerce sales soar to nearly $3 billion by next year.

That has the potential to open up a whole new world to scammers.

Frighteningly, Coronavirus-related websites created in January and February of this year are 50% more likely to be malicious than other websites created in the same time period.

Even the banks aren’t safe. Banking trojans have been sent to 10% of registered Italian organisations. Scammers are presenting the world with their own global pandemic.

There are several steps you can take to better protect yourself from COVID-19 related scams:

  • check the URL of a company before you purchase from them (just in case someone has created an identical site);
  • use your credit cards to purchase goods ensuring you have a level of protection that insures against online fraud;
  • do not respond to phishing emails. Block them.

With that in mind, here are five scams all Australians should be aware of.

Jobkeeper scam

The government is trying to do the right thing by Australian citizens in need of vital financial support, however this is being undermined by phone scammers pretending to be from an organisation or workplace and asking for bank details so they can process JobKeeper wage subsidy payments.
The Australian Taxation Office has alerted businesses to this scam and reiterated the point they will never ask you to reply and provide personal information such a Tax File Number (TFN) or bank account number.

Australia Post scam

Auspost has reported a 90 per cent increase in deliveries during April compared with the same time last year as people continue to stay at home.
This, of course, has opened the door to scammers. In this case, Australia Post has issued a warning to watch out for fake emails that claim a package of yours hasn’t been delivered because of a weight limit.

Look out for subject lines such as “unfortunately we have not been able to deliver your package” and, whatever you do, do not open the email prompt. If you do, you’ll be clicking on a phishing link that directs you to a fake Australia Post website asking for personal and banking information.

Video conferencing scams

Hackers are taking advantage of the current rise in reliance on conferencing tools. A report by Check Point Research shows registered domains posing as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet-related URLs are on the rise.

In just the last three weeks, for example, 2,449 Zoom-related domains have been registered

These sites are being used to potentially trick people into downloading malware or accidentally giving a bad actor access to personal information.
Best thing to do in this case is be vigilant and beware.

Fundraising scams

Unfortunately these began during the bushfire crisis and haven’t let up. Fundraising initiatives were also damaged by an unprecedented level of online scams.

According to the Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA), the increase in digital fundraising and Australia’s move toward ‘need giving’, make natural disaster events a large target for scammers.

To avoid this, undertake a serious level of due diligence of the organisation you wish to donate to. When you consider giving to a specific charity, search its name, any complaints against it, any reviews, or just type in the name and scam.

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