Coronavirus scams boom – here’s how not to be a victim


Scammers are using the spread of COVID-19 to take advantage of people across Australia. What should you look out for?

Key Points


  • ACCC warns of coronavirus linked malicious scams targeting your money
  • More than 5,000 coronavirus scams have been reported
  • Read this item and scroll down to see examples of common scams (link provided)

You get a text message or an email from the ‘government’ wanting you to click on a link to provide information or get help. It’s probably a scam and you could be risking your online security and money.

Scammers are pretending to be government agencies providing information on COVID-19 through text messages and emails ‘phishing’ for your financial information. These contain malicious links and attachments designed to steal your personal and financial information.

You may think it couldn’t happen to you but the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Scamwatch says the scams are so persuasive that Australians so far have lost $6,280,000 to scammers during the pandemic.

Common scams include phishing for personal information, online shopping, and superannuation scams. If you have been scammed or have seen a scam, you can make a report on the Scamwatch website, and find more information about where to get help.

Scamwatch urges caution and for people to remain alert to the scams. Scammers are hoping that you have let your guard down. Do not provide your personal, banking or superannuation details to strangers who have approached you.

Scammers may pretend to have a connection with you. It’s important to stop and check, even when you are approached by what you think is a trusted organisation.

If you have any doubts at all, don’t proceed. Visit the Scamwatch news webpage for general warnings and media releases on COVID-19 scams.

In the examples that follow, the text messages appear to come from ‘GOV’ and ‘myGov’, with a malicious link to more information on COVID-19.

Scammers are pretending to be government agencies providing information on COVID-19 through text messages and emails ‘phishing’ for your information. These contain malicious links and attachments designed to steal your personal and financial information.

In these examples text messages appear to come from ‘GOV’ and ‘myGov’, with a malicious link to more information on COVID-19.

Examples of scams


Take a look at examples of these scams here.

Protect yourself tips


  • Don’t click on hyperlinks in text/social media messages or emails, even if it appears to come from a trusted source.
  • Go directly to the website through your browser. For example, to reach the MyGov website type ‘my.gov.au’ into your browser yourself.
  • Never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details, even if they claim to be a from a reputable organisation or government authority — just press delete or hang up.

Phishing – Other impersonation scams


Scammers are pretending to be from real and well-known businesses such as banks, travel agents, insurance providers and telco companies, and using various excuses around COVID-19 to:

  • ask for your personal and financial information
  • lure you into opening malicious links or attachments
  • gain remote access to your computer
  • seek payment for a fake service or something you did not purchase.

Tips to protect yourself from these types of scams:

  • Don’t click on hyperlinks in text/social media messages or emails, even if they appear to come from a trusted source.
  • Never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details — just press delete or hang up.
  • Never provide a stranger remote access to your computer, even if they claim to be from a telco company such as Telstra or the NBN Co.
  • To verify the legitimacy of a contact, find them through an independent source such as a phone book, past bill or online search.

Superannuation scams


Scammers are taking advantage of people in financial hardship due to COVID-19 by attempting to steal their superannuation or by offering unnecessary services and charging a fee.

The majority of these scams start with an unexpected call claiming to be from a superannuation or financial service.

The scammers use a variety of excuses to request information about your superannuation accounts, including:

  • offering to help you access the money in your superannuation
  • ensuring you’re not locked out of your account under new rules.
  • checking whether your superannuation account is eligible for various benefits or deals.

Example of a superannuation scam


A scammer will call pretending to be from a superannuation or financial service. They may refer to the government’s superannuation early release measures, and ask questions such as:

  • Have you worked full time for the last 5 years?
  • Are you going to apply for the $10 000 superannuation package?

Or falsely claim:

  • Inactive super accounts will be locked if not merged immediately.

Superannuation early-access scams


For more information, see our Superannuation early-access scams fact sheet.

Tips to protect yourself from these types of scams:

  • Never give any information about your superannuation to someone who has contacted you — this includes offers to help you access your superannuation early under the government’s new arrangements.
  • Hang up and verify their identity by calling the relevant organisation directly — find them through an independent source such as a phone book, past bill or online search.
  • For more information on superannuation scams visit ASIC’s MoneySmart website.

Online shopping scams


Scammers have created fake online stores claiming to sell products that don’t exist — such as cures or vaccinations for COVID-19, and products such as face masks.

Tips to protect yourself from these types of scams:

  • The best way to detect a fake trader or social media shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing. No vaccine or cure presently exists for the coronavirus.
  • Be wary of sellers requesting unusual payment methods such as upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin.

More information is available at Online shopping scams.