Scammers ramp up activities during COVID-19

21 May 2020

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading is warning consumers that scammers have ramped up their activities during COVID-19 and are preying on people while they are socially isolated.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said there had been a marked increase in the number of scams being perpetrated on consumers.

“Scamwatch has received over 2000 reports of COVID-19-related scam activities since the outbreak of the virus in Australia with scammers taking advantage of the situation to exploit and play on people’s fears, vulnerability and generosity,” Mr Bauer said.

“Some of the scams associated with COVID-19 that have been identified include fake online stores, fake phone calls by scammers pretending to be from trusted organisations or government agencies, phishing scams via email or text, and superannuation scams.

“Consumers buying online should be aware of fake online stores and social media accounts that claim to sell medical or health products, such as cures or vaccinations for COVID-19 and face masks.

“People are receiving phone calls where the scammer claims to be a relative who needs money for medical treatment.

“Phishing scams via email or text can claim to be from a bank or government organisations, such as the Department of Health or the World Health Organisation, with links or attachments containing malware to obtain personal data.

“Superannuation scams may offer to help you access your account, help check if you are eligible for various benefits or claiming you will be locked out of your account.

“Door-to-door scams include those offering cheap services such as bitumen laying, roof painting and repairs, or tree lopping and removal services.

“There are so many scams doing the rounds at the moment that everyone needs to be hypervigilant about who they are dealing with, whether that be online, in person, or on the phone.

“Consumers should never disclose bank details, financial information or other personal details.

“If you are in any way concerned about a phone call, email, social media post or text message, it is best not to respond and do not click on any links. If someone comes to your door uninvited close the door firmly and walk away.”

For more information about how to protect yourself, visit the OFT’s website.

More information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) scams is available from Scamwatch.