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COVID-19 vaccine scams

07/04/2021

New scams to be aware of as vaccines begin rolling out.

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It’s a sad fact that Australians are no strangers to being scammed.

Last year alone, scams relating to Coronavirus cost Australians over $8.4 million, according to Scamwatch. And now, cyber-security experts are warning that we may soon be faced with a new onslaught of targeted, COVID-19 vaccine scams.

These may pop up in the form of fake websites, phishing scams and vaccine-related offers via email, text, social media and the darknet.

New vaccine scams to be aware of

As the vaccine is being rolled out overseas, here are a few specific scams popping up that cyber-security experts worry might be appearing in Australia soon, too:

  • Scams that request payment for vaccines
  • Scams that offer early access to vaccines for a fee
  • Scam offers to mail you the vaccine in the post
  • Investment opportunities in the Pfizer vaccine
  • Fake surveys that may offer prizes or early access to vaccines
  • Darknet scams selling vaccine doses
  • Darknet scams selling vaccination records (documentation that states you’ve been vaccinated and are able to travel).

Remember that anything requesting your personal or financial information via text, email, social media or phone is likely to be a scam.

And, while you may be tempted to buy a vaccine online, The Therapeutic Goods Administration warns that such doses may be unsafe, ineffective or fake – if they arrive at all. 

What might a scam look like?

Scammers are becoming extremely clever at masquerading as governments, banks, travel agents, insurance companies, telcos – and some may even impersonate people you know.

COVID-19 or vaccine related scams may come from government agencies such as MyGov, NSW Health or the ATO. Or you might find you’re sent a scam from what looks like a trusted organisation such as a store you always shop at.

And, it’s worth being aware that scammers may already have information about you, so they’re able to sound more convincing when they contact you. And alongside trying to contact you via email, text and social media, they may also come to your home.

How to protect yourself

Even the smartest, most online-savvy people can be taken in by a cleverly designed scam. But there are definitely some red flags to look out for.

Phone scammers may say you’re in trouble in some way, tell you that you owe money or that there’s a virus on your computer. They’ll typically pressure you to make a quick decision and they may ask for payment in strange ways – such as via gift cards or using a money transfer services.

As a rule of thumb, delete any message that asks for personal or financial information. If you pick up a call – even from a trusted source or company you have an account with – and they ask for remote access to your computer, hang up. If you receive anything with a link, don’t click on it – even if it’s a trusted source. Instead, go straight to the website to check if the information is legitimate.

What to do if you are a victim of a scam

Contact your bank immediately and let them know so they can be on the alert for any suspicious activity on your accounts – and ask them how you can best protect your financial information. You should also check this Scamwatch list on the other ways you can limit the damage.

You should also report a scam directly to Scamwatch or the Australian Cyber Security Centre, and to the relevant authorities.

Last but not least, change your passwords across your banking accounts, email and social media and make them very difficult to crack!

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them. Any links to third party websites are for your information only and we do not endorse their content.

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