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Warnings over coronavirus-related scams

Warnings over coronavirus-related scams

Australia’s competition watchdog has urged people to be wary of coronavirus-related scams as the government escalates its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said its Scamwatch website has received 45 reports of alleged coronavirus-related fraud since the beginning of the year.

“Unfortunately, scammers are using the spread of coronavirus to exploit and play on the fears of consumers across Australia,” an ACCC spokesperson said.

“Scammers are using tactics such as falsely selling coronavirus related products online, and using fake emails or text messages to try and obtain personal data.”

Some known scams included phishing emails and text messages claiming to be the World Health Organisation, the Australian government, travel companies or other official entities, with links designed to steal personal information.

“Be very wary of any communication, whether it comes by email or phone call, in relation to anything to do with coronavirus,” Nick Savvides, the chief information security officer for Asia Pacific at Forcepoint told A Current Affair.

“We are extra vulnerable during times of crisis because people are at a heightened state of urgency.”

Also among the reported scams were fake traders and shops.

“Be careful of online shopping sites requesting unusual payment methods such as up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin,” the ACCC spokesperson said.

“Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall [and] do not open attachments or click on links in emails, text messages or social media messages you’ve received from strangers – just press delete.”

The Australian watchdog’s warning came as a UK police force issued an alert on a scam targeting seniors.

Camden Police said a “small number of reports” were made about a shopping scam exploiting self-isolating elders.

“We have recently received a small number of reports of individuals offering to go shopping for the elderly within our community as a means to then keep their money,” the force said in a Twitter post.

“As ever, please ensure you or those more vulnerable in your circles treat such invitations with caution.”