ScamWatch Warns About Text Message Scams From Impostors Posing as COVID-19 Contact Tracers Who Already Stole $3.3 Million From Victims

3 weeks ago 10

Scamwatch warned the public against an elaborate new text message scam in which victims are asked to click on a link to find out the alleged dangerous places to avoid.

These messages were sent by fraudsters pretending to be coronavirus contact tracers and were supposed to warn Australians about a possible COVID-19 case in their neighborhood. Victims are then urged to click on a link on a map to know about "the most dangerous places" they should avoid.

ScamWatch Wwarn about Text Message Scams

(Photo : Lindsey LaMont / Unsplash)
ScamWatch Wwarn about Text Message Scams

On Sept. 23, it also shared a warning on Twitter that says: "Beware of the latest COVID-19 themed government impersonation scam." Scamwatch also urged the public who may receive the text to delete it and not click the link. They may also contact relevant agencies to check the legitimacy of the message they have received. 

Beware of the latest #COVID19 themed government impersonation scam. If you receive this text, don't click the link, just delete it. Not sure if a text is legitimate? Contact the relevant agency using details you’ve sourced yourself or visit the official website via your browser. pic.twitter.com/SoetaiD6Xb — Scamwatch_gov_au (@Scamwatch_gov) September 23, 2020

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said scammers are increasingly taking advantage of the financial difficulties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "Don't be pressured by a threatening caller and take your time to consider who you might be dealing with," she added.  

How to avoid getting scammed?

Scamwatch is the information dissemination team of ACCC to educate consumers and businesses on identifying and avoiding and reporting scams. 

On its website, it said it has already received over 4,160 reports of COVID-19-related scams, in which fraudsters already swindled more than $3,360,000 since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. These fraudulent activities include online shopping, personal information phishing, and retirement scams.

Scamwatch wrote on its website how to prevent being caught by scammers. The watchdog advises the public to remain alert and cautious about COVID-related scams as fraudsters hope "you have let your guard down" amid the outbreak. It also warns people to avoid giving out personal or banking information as well as superannuation details to strangers.

Tax debt scams

Meanwhile, another tax office scam was also found on Wednesday, targeting people through SMS or phone voicemail message. Fraudsters urge people to give their credit card details while threatening victims to get arrested if they do not comply.

Fake myGov texts

(Photo : Scamwatch)
Fake myGov texts

The message starts with "Attention: this call is from the legal department of Services Australia," which would easily get the attention of the targeted victims. The message continues saying that the victim's Tax File Identification Number has been suspended and a case was filed against under him or her.

Finally, victims will be advised on how to manage the situation. "So, before this matter goes to Federal Court and you could get arrested, kindly press 1. I repeat press 1 to know about your legal case," the fake message stated.

An Australian Tax Office spokesperson said they are already concerned about the increasing number of people who fall under the prey of fake tax debt scams.

These scammers pretend to be ATO authorities who contact citizens and tell them that they will get arrested if they do not immediately pay their tax debt. They will usually ask payments through uncommon payment methods like pre-paid credit cards, gift cards, or even cryptocurrency. They will also keep their victims on the line until they have completed the payment.

"We will never threaten you with immediate arrest or demand payment through unusual means," said the ATO spokesperson.

The ATO also advised those who received text messages, voicemail, or phone calls not to provide personal information or send any payment.

Read also: Australian Bank Westpac Slammed with $920 Million Fine for Breaking Money-Laundering Laws for Over 23 Million Times

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Written by CJ Robles

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