March 20, 2020

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned that scammers are adapting existing technology to play on people’s fears about COVID-19.

They are selling products claiming to prevent or cure the novel coronavirus.

Since January 1, 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 to obtain personal data.

“Unfortunately, scammers are using the uncertainty around COVID-19 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 Organisation and the Department of Health, or legitimate businesses such as travel agents and telecommunications companies.

“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 Organisation websites directly.”

The ACCC warned people who think they have been scammed, to contact their bank or financial institution immediately.

More information on coronavirus scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report

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