Beware of COVID-19 scams – Criminal Law | #coronavirus | #scams | #covid19

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Aussies have been defrauded of millions of dollars since the
start of the Covid-19 outbreak, with Scamwatch reporting a
significant escalation in scam operations over the past few months,
including phishing for personal information, online shopping, and
superannuation scams.

According to the organisation, scammers are impersonating
government agencies which provide information on
through text messages and emails, all the while
‘phishing’ for personal information. The communications
trypically contain malicious links and attachments designed to
steal personal and financial information.

Scamwatch says there have been more than 3,600 such incidents
reported in recent months.

Impersonating government agencies

Some of the scams doing the rounds are impersonating
‘myGov’, Department of Health and the ATO.

Experts have suggested that the online revolution had moved
ahead about five years in the space of three months, particularly
over lockdown when Aussies were forced to adapt to new ways of
‘life online’ very quickly to work, school their children,
shop and interact with friends and relatives.

And, the fraudsters and scammers found a fantastic opportunity
to swoop on people who are not tech savvy or vulnerable. In many
cases, the fake emails or text messages purport to be Government
agencies and other entities offering help with applications for
financial assistance or payments for staying home.

Some scammers are also pretending to be from real businesses
such as banks, travel agents, insurance providers, technology help,
and telco companies, and using various excuses around COVID-19 to
ask people for personal and financial information as well as
getting payment for something you did not purchase, or gain remote
access to your computer.

Others are posing as financial advisors offering to assist
accessing their superannuation under the government’s Covid-19
early release scheme
. Some are attempting to steal access
information, and others are simply offering unnecessary services
and offering a fee.

People really do need to remain vigilant, and not click links
that look suspicious, or if they receive a phone call, then avoid
giving away personal details until the caller can be identified as

There are a range of laws which deal with illegal online
activity, but the main piece of legislation which covers consumers
if they have been scammed or defrauded is the national Australian
Consumer Law (ACL) which in 2011 replaced previous Commonwealth,
state and territory consumer protection legislation.

The consumer protection provisions under the ACL that are
directly relevant to scams include:

  • misleading or deceptive conduct

  • false or misleading representations

  • unconscionable conduct

  • unsolicited supplies

  • pyramid selling

Cybercrime is becoming increasingly common, and is often
undertaken on a large-scale basis. Some estimates suggesting that
it costs the Australian economy as much as $ 29 billion annually,
with those who’ve been scammed losing on average, $700.

Cyber fraud means accessing restricted information on a computer
and using it for personal gain, or to deprive someone of money or
property. Cyber fraud,
including identity theft
, can be big business, and it is an
offence that many law enforcement agencies are targeting

Cybercrime can also be prosecuted under the
NSW Criminal Code 1900 Section 92E which essentially deals with
, whereby someone acts “deceptively or
dishonesty” to obtain some form of property or financial
advantage, or to cause another person financial disadvantage.

Scamwatch is warning people to be especially vigilant right now
while many of these scams are operating, but they’re also
calling on people to report anything they think may be suspicious
and provide as many relevant details as possible so that complaints
and concerns can be followed up, and criminals caught.

Cybercrime is on the increase, and online scams are becoming
more sophisticated, and as we spend more time online, interacting
with a range of businesses, institutions, retailers and
individuals, every transaction has the potential to put us at risk,
across multiple tech platforms – desktops, laptops, tablets
and phones.

The only way to stay protected ourselves is to be alert, and to
never give away personal information. Passwords should also be
updated regularly, along with security settings and virus software,
and remember to be careful about what personal details you post on
social media.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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