Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 over $1.7 million has been lost to scammers with over 3400 reports of scams mentioning the coronavirus.
ASIC Chairman James Shipton told the parliamentary committee on Wednesday that there has been a 20% increase in consumer complaints.
Below is a list of five common scams impacting Australians at the moment.
The Puppy Scam
Arguably the COVID scam with the strongest emotional investment, scammers are taking advantage of social distancing restrictions and asking for a deposit or, in some cases full payment for a puppy without even a visit. After the money has been received, all communication is ceased.
On-trend breeds Cavoodles and French Bulldogs have been reported the most frequently.
Approximately $30,000 has been lost by Australians to puppy scams in the past 12 months.
Government Impersonisation Phishing Schemes
Scammers are impersonating various government agencies and sending out messages offering health information or virus testing. These contain malicious links and attachments designed to steal your personal and financial information.
COVID-19 phishing scams take on the form of health advice, department of health notices, and messages from MyGov or ‘GOV’. Phishing is the practice of obtaining sensitive information and data fraudulently.
Superannuation scams have been put in place to take advantage of the high number of Australians currently suffering from or are at risk of financial hardship. These scammers will attempt to steal superannuation or offer unnecessary services for a fee.
The scams have been reported as a phone call in which someone claims to be from a financial institution and will:
- Offer to help you access the money in your superannuation.
- Ensure you are not locked out of your account under new rules.
- Check whether your superannuation account is eligible for various benefits or deals.
There are also a variety of superannuation scams designed to take advantage of people who have requested early release of their super; these are also phishing scams designed to steal your superannuation.
Scammers are calling, emailing and text messaging Australians and asking them for personal and financial details and promising a full refund of cancelled flights.
There have been reports of scammers watching social media to find victims who have had their flights cancelled as they are at a heightened sense of urgency and distress.
They will use cancelled travel plans to:
- Ask for personal and financial information.
- Lure you into opening malicious links or attachments.
- Gain remote access to your computer.
- Seek payment for a fake service or something you did not purchase.
Payment Relief Scam
Fake payment and financial assistance schemes have been circulating through email and text inboxes claiming to be from the Australian Government and the Australian Taxation Office.
The messages often have a hyperlink to a website asking for banking and other personal details whilst claiming to offer government subsidies, tax refunds or economic support payments. There have also been reports of payments for ‘staying at home’.
ASIC predicts all scam incidents are likely to increase in frequency and severity over the coming weeks and months. This is due in part, to the ease in which existing scam emails and texts can be modified with a COVID-19 theme. Scammers are taking advantage of the heightened emotions and financial hardships of the current climate.
Organisations and individuals are encouraged to remain vigilant against the threat of COVID-19 themed scams, phishing emails and malicious websites.