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Fraud during the COVID-19 outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global pandemic which is impacting the health and wellbeing of citizens and the global economy.

Across the world, people are grappling with a range of implications of the pandemic. Governments also are rapidly designing and implementing emergency response measures to deal with the unfolding crisis - including targeted stimulus and support measures. 

Sadly, the delivery of some emergency response and recovery measures comes with an inherently high risk of fraud.

Criminals and scammers actively seek to exploit people's fears and the efforts of government to implement broad based support measures. Already there are numerous reports of examples of different types of COVID-19 related frauds and scams—both internationally and domestically.

In the UK, criminals were able to profit £800,000 pounds (1.6 million AUD) by pretending to sell protective face masks that were never delivered.

Like we’ve seen with bushfire themed scams pretending to raise funds for families impacted by the Black Summer Bushfires, some COVID-19 themed scams look to exploit our empathy for victims.A recent scam involved a group pretending to raise money to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for children in China, despite no vaccination existing.

There have been multiple reports of COVID-19 themed phishing emails and websites attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.

Other frauds involve emails and texts pretending to be from research organisations affiliated with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Scamwatch is currently reporting a scam involving texts claiming to be official Australian Government advice on COVID-19 testing locations.When opened, software can be installed on phones resulting in the compromise of personal bank details.

The Australian Government has recently announced an initial $17.6 billion stimulus package, including $8.7 billion in cash payments for businesses, wage subsidies for apprentices and a significant expansion of the instant asset write-off. A further package of measures is expected shortly.

Expediting much needed payments often requires changes to regulatory and assurance frameworks. 

Organised criminals and individuals looking to commit opportunistic fraud will actively seek to take advantage of relaxed controls.

Where possible, simple, efficient and effective fraud controls should continue to be incorporated into any new or existing programs to maintain program integrity and prevent systemic fraud. 

The Centre will be producing more detailed guidance in the coming days. In the interim, be aware and stay informed.

For official updates and advice relating to COVID-19 information and fraud risks, go to:


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