In a disappointing recent development, scammers appear to be taking advantage of the anxiety and fear surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak by targeting vulnerable Australians.
As a result, Tasmanian-based MyState Bank is imploring Aussies to increase their vigilance online, stating that the risk of people falling prey to scams is, unfortunately, heightened during this period.
According to MyState, scammers aren’t just looking to take advantage of fears about the virus itself, but also the financial impact being felt around the country.
“We are seeing many instances of neighbourhoods and communities coming together to support each other during these times,” said MyState Bank General Manager of Digital and Marketing, Heather McGovern.
“However, there is also a dark side where criminals are using highly sophisticated scams to obtain personal information from members of the community, especially the most vulnerable amongst us.”
RELATED: ACCC issues advice on rising coronavirus scams, how to keep your money safe
Figures released towards the end of last month from the ACCC’s Scamwatch revealed that the organisation had received over 90 different reports of coronavirus-related scams since the beginning of 2020 - a figure projected to increase further in the coming months.
According to McGovern, one of the most common methods used by scammers are ‘phishing scams’. In this context, scammers will send seemingly ‘official’ information about COVID-19 to a target via an email or a text message.
“The sender claims to be from government departments, health agencies such as the World Health Organisation and even legitimate businesses in the travel and telecommunications sectors. In addition, phishing scams may be forwarded or shared via social media by a relative or friend in good faith, and we would urge people to be cautious of such forwarded information.”
“These emails will often ask receivers to click on an attachment or embedded link which will likely download malicious software onto their device to allow scammers free reign over their personal information or financial data.”
So are there any strategies Aussies can put in place to help them avoid becoming a scam victim? Here are four useful tips from MyState Bank.
1. Be wary of requests for personal or financial details
MyState reminds Australians that it’s highly unlikely for a government department or business to make an unsolicited request for personal or financial information online or over the phone, so any unsolicited emails or calls should be treated with caution.
If you are unsure, or want to confirm whether or not an enquiry is genuine, reach out to the organisation in question yourself by looking up the official phone number or online channel - don’t use the number provided in any suspicious email or text!
2. Cast a careful eye over your emails
Another tip to ensure your safety online is to inspect email addresses and links yourself before clicking on them by hovering over them with your mouse. Look suspicious? Don’t click it.
MyState also says there may be a few common tells you can use to identify scam emails, including poor spelling and grammar as well as an email starting with a generic greeting such as “Dear Sir or Madam”.
3. Get your news and facts from official sources
While many Australians will want to keep themselves up to date with the latest news and developments throughout this period of uncertainty, MyState Bank has encouraged people to rely on official sources such as the Australian Government Department of Health.
4. Report scams yourself
Finally, if you do come across any suspicious behaviour, make sure you report it to the relevant authorities such as ASIC or the ACCC. After all, that could help another Australian avoid becoming a victim.
RELATED: Gen Z falling victim to scams at alarming rate, finds ACCC
Looking for more information to help you prepare yourself financially during COVID-19? Check out our Coronavirus and your finances guide for a collection of useful articles about everything from working from home to the stimulus packages released for individuals and businesses.