Australians beware: ACCC reports rise in COVID-19 related scams

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recorded an alarming rise in scams and phishing activity since the outbreak of COVID-19. It seems scammers are taking advantage of the situation by trying to trick individuals into handing over money or personal information in support of crisis efforts.

How do I know it’s a scam?

There have been over 1000 reports of COVID-19 scams since the pandemic started, with the most popular means of delivery being by email and phone. The ACCC estimates that around $36.5 million dollars have been lost to scams already in 2020.

Some of the more common scams have been those relating to:

  • COVID-19 economic support packages from scammers claiming to be from the Australian Government;
  • travel and insurance refunds from scammers claiming to be from your travel agency or insurance company;
  • grocery coupons or gift vouchers from scammers claiming to be from Woolworths or Coles;
  • a need to update your bank account details from scammers claiming to be from your bank; and
  • changes to superannuation from scammers claiming to be from your superannuation fund.

How do I protect myself from scams?

Over time, scams of this nature have become highly sophisticated, making it difficult to determine the authenticity of correspondence. In consideration of the ACCC’s advice relating to scams, Griffin Legal recommends that you:

  • check to see if the sender’s email address or phone number is one you recognise
  • consider verifying the sender’s details using Google. This will help you determine if the sender is authentic or flag to you that it is a known or identified scam
  • never click through and open hyperlinks sent via text, through social media or in an email. If you believe the source to be reputable, take the time to type out the address in full instead of clicking the hyperlink
  • never allow someone remote access to your computer or other devices unless they are an identified person from an IT company engaged specifically by you to perform those services
  • do not provide your personal, financial or superannuation details in response to any unsolicited messages or calls
  • have good security and privacy measures in place. This includes never allowing Google to save or catch passwords or credit card details and setting up your email to filter untrusted sources into your Junk Mail.

Are the scams just targeting individuals?

There are a number of scams currently circulating that are targeting small businesses rather than individuals. Scammers targeting businesses are disguising themselves as well-known suppliers with many asking business owners to divert account payments into a new bank account. Businesses should contact their suppliers directly, including by telephone or in-person, to verify any requested changes to existing arrangements and alert their suppliers if they think they may be the victim of a scam or phishing activity.

We all need to stay informed about the evolving COVID-19 situation but we must remain ever-vigilant and alert when it comes to information surrounding it in order to protect our privacy and personal security. For more information or advice on detecting scams or mitigating their damage, contact Griffin Legal today.

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