Current COVID-19 scams businesses have to watch out for
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in risk for small businesses all over the country. In fact, the latest COVID-19 scams often target such businesses because the owners are busy and have limited resources to keep their systems safe.
These scams are designed to take advantage of the changes to daily life – including loss of jobs and financial vulnerability, fear of infection and the shortage of particular goods and services. To combat this growing issue, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has released a guide for business owners to be aware of COVID related scams.
The common COVID-19 scams
Here is a list of scams the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner warns owners to be wary of:
Phishing is when scammers impersonate a government department or trusted business to obtain your personal, business or financial information. Since this scam can easily lure you into providing personal details, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner advises individuals to watch out for emails, SMS texts, instant messages and social media posts that contain the following:
- Links claiming to have important updates about the latest COVID-19 safety measures, or claiming to have information on the location of possible COVID-19 cases in your area
- Pretending that you or your employees have been in a COVID affected area and asking for personal information
- Offering to help you access a government ‘benefit’ or ‘subsidy’
- Pretending to assess you or your employees’ eligibility for the vaccine, or placing you on a fake waitlist
Be aware that genuine emails about online government or businesses services will not include links to sign-in pages, or ask for your personal information, account details, PIN or passwords.
2. Fake charities
Other COVID-19 scams may also pose as charities collecting money for people affected by the pandemic. These charity scams would often pick a name that sounds close to a real charity and set up fake websites.
To stay vigilant, it is important to double-check online on the charity’s credibility before making any donations. Genuine charities will likely be registered. You can check this using the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission website.
3. Business email compromise
Scammers can pretend to be a supplier or employee and use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to request payment or change bank details. This attempt would include a compromised email account or a used company logo and branding.
If you are unsure if the email, call or SMS you have received is genuine, do not click any links or open any attachments, and contact the organisation or employee using contact details that you’ve found yourself.
4. Supply scams
Supply scams are said to use fake websites and social media pages in order to sell products related to COVID-19 that will never be received. They may also offer to sell non-existent products that claim to prevent or cure COVID-19.
As the vaccine rolls out in Australia, scammers may ask you to pay for a vaccine or get early access to a vaccine for you or your employees. This is not true since the vaccines are voluntary, free and available to everyone. You cannot pay to get early access. Scammers may also try to sell fake COVID-19 vaccine certificates and related documents.
Protect your business
In order to protect your business, you must make sure that all of your business computers have up-to-date security software and that your staff is trained to be on the lookout for scams or anything unusual.
You must also protect your customers’ private information and reduce the risk of someone impersonating your business. To do this, inform your customers that you will never contact them to ask for their customer login or payment card information. You can also monitor who is mentioning your business name online using a tool like Google Alerts.
Having strong passwords for your business accounts is also a good security measure. Be sure to update your business passwords when there are staffing changes.
Report any scams to SCAMwatch and contact your bank immediately if you have sent money or banking details to a scammer. It is also encouraged to contact the local police or report it to ReportCyber if the contact has taken place online.
To know more on how to protect your business, go to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.