Warning on COVID-19 scams

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Australians should be aware scammers are adapting existing technology to play on people’s fears around coronavirus and selling products claiming to prevent or cure the virus.

Since 1 January 2020, the ACCC’s Scamwatch has received 94 reports of scams about coronavirus, but warns figures are starting to climb.

Scamwatch has received multiple reports of phishing scams sent via email or text message that claim to be providing official information on coronavirus but are attempts to try and obtain personal data.

“Unfortunately, scammers are using the uncertainty around COVID-19, or coronavirus, to take advantage of people,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Other scams include people receiving misinformation about cures for coronavirus and investment scams claiming coronavirus has created opportunities to make money.

“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.”

“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.”

“Scammers are impersonating official organisations such as the World Health Organization and the Department of Health or legitimate businesses such as travel agents and telecommunications companies,” Ms Rickard 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.”

If you think you have been scammed, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

More information on coronavirus scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.

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Classified scams trick online shoppers on classified websites into thinking they are dealing with a legitimate contact but it is actually a scammer.

Health and medical product scams may sell you healthcare products at low prices that you never receive, or make false promises about their ‘cure-all’ products, medicines and treatments.

Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer site.

Investment scams involve getting you or your business to part with money on the promise of a questionable financial opportunity.

Identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else's identity to steal money or gain other benefits.

Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out your personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.

Hacking occurs when a scammer gains access to your personal information by using technology to break into your computer, mobile device or network.