Fraud and cyber-crime to watch out for in the age of Corona

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, the way in which people commit crimes does too. For years there has been an upward trend in the commission of fraud and cybercrime offences. The more people that tap and go means fewer people with large amounts of cash in their wallets, homes or businesses. Most electronic goods are no longer as valuable as they used to be at resale online or to cash converters. The combination of this and increasing home and business security means break and enters, and armed robberies are less appealing than they used to be.

Instead, we have seen criminals turn to online frauds and cybercrime. Such crimes can be committed from almost anywhere in the world and by just about anyone. The anonymity of the internet coupled with hacking techniques, ransomware campaigns and/or data breaches means crimes are relatively easy to commit and are notoriously difficult to investigate and prosecute successfully.

With the word’s economies struggling and more people at home and online during the coronavirus pandemic, cybercriminals and fraudsters have tailored their techniques to take advantage of the situation. There have been numerous reports of COVID 19 related scams and frauds, and we can all expect this to continue.

We have compiled a list of several coronavirus scams and cyber-attacks to look out for

Fake texts and emails purporting to be from Government Agencies

Numerous people have reported getting texts and emails from “the NSW Government”, “myGov”.

The texts and emails contain a link or attachment to click on for “more information on COVID-19”. The links or attachments are malicious and designed to gain access to your personal and/or financial information. Similar scams have been reported relating to other well-known organisations including banks, energy providers and insurers.

Applications for financial assistance or other payments

Fake emails and application forms for financial assistance or government payments relating to the COVID 19 assistance packages are also being circulated. Such emails and forms are designed to look official and seek that you provide your financial information on the form or online.

Superannuation scams

There has been an increase in the number of people receiving calls purportedly from a superannuation provider. The caller offers people assistance or benefits if they are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 in an attempt to gain access to personal information, financial information and superannuation funds. There have also been offers of an unnecessary service in exchange for paying a fee.

False coronavirus products

Some online stores are purporting to sell expensive medical face masks, hand sanitizer or fake coronavirus home tests. In some cases, the product never arrives. In others, people are delivered items which are not what they purport to be such as regular face masks instead of medical-grade ones or alcohol-free hand sanitizer.

Facebook questionnaires

There has been an increase in the number of people being duped into posting their personal information online under the guise of Facebook statuses containing questionnaires. The answers to questions such as “What is your mother’s maiden name”, “Where did you grow up” and “What school did you go to” can reveal sensitive personal information which can be used by hackers to get access to accounts by answering your “secret questions”.

No one really cares about the “name of your first pet” and the “street where you grew up” except for people trying to get access to your Gmail account.

To protect yourself you should never click on a link in a text message, email or social media message unless you are certain it is from a trusted source. If you must, you should always check the email address to ensure it’s authentic. You should read the email carefully and keep an eye out for anything “phishy”. If you suspect a possible scam, you should do research online or attempt to call the organisation which is said to have sent you to the email.

It is always best practice to use your browser to type in the web address of the organisation or government agency you are being directed to. Remember, the Australian Tax Office already has your bank account details and wouldn’t ordinarily email you requesting them. You can update or check your bank details through the MyGov website.

Before clicking on a link or attachment, you should also report potential scams to the ACCC Scam Watch, NSW Police and/or any organisation that is being impersonated.

You should never respond directly to a call, text message or email that asks for your financial information.

BY: Trudie Cameron, Senior Associate, Criminal Law, Sydney

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