During times of crisis, it’s not uncommon for online scammers to prey on vulnerable Aussies and their fears.
And according to new research by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), scammers are using anxiety around the coronavirus to make money and obtain personal details.
Since January 1, the ACCC’s ScamWatch received 94 reports of scams about coronavirus and the organisation has warned that the number of cases that the number of cases will continue to climb.
“Unfortunately, scammers are using the uncertainty around COVID-19, or coronavirus, to take advantage of people,” said ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard.
“We’ve had a wide variety of scams reported to us, including fake online stores selling products claiming to be a vaccine or cure for coronavirus, and stores selling products such as face masks and not providing the goods.”
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Other scams include misinformation about cures for coronavirus and investment scams, which detail opportunities on how to make money during the outbreak.
Rickard explained that while a cure will eventually be released to the public, Aussies should sit tight for now and await updates from experts.
“There is no known vaccine or cure for coronavirus and a vaccine isn’t expected to be available for 18 months. Do not buy any products that claim to prevent or cure you of COVID-19. They simply don’t exist,” she said.
“Understandably, people want information on the pandemic, but they should be wary of emails or text messages claiming to be from experts. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit the Department of Health and the World Health Organization websites directly.”
How to protect yourself from online scams
With hackers and scammers using the latest technology to obtain personal information and create highly realistic websites, there’s never been a better time to brush up on your online safety habits. Here are four tips to stay safe and protected online:
Keep up with legitimate payment options - Afterpay, Paypal, credit cards - there are a number of common ways to pay online. Steer clear of online sites that ask for uncommon payment methods such as wire transfers, preloaded cards or cryptocurrency.
Delete, delete, delete - If you receive an email or text message from an unrecognised source, do not click on any links or attachments. These may download viruses onto your computer or device that can steal your banking or personal details. Play it safe by deleting any emails or text messages you don’t recognise.
Download up to date computer security software - One way to safeguard your computer is to keep anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date. Of course, when you are downloading the software, be sure it’s from a reputable source.
Do your research - If you plan on donating to any charities or crowdfunding platforms, do you research to be sure the organisation is legitimate. Read the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure charities are registered on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register before making a donation.