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The year has seen a fresh start for fraudsters and scam artists, seeing another spike in COVID-19 scams and text-based cons. Australian Community Media has compiled a list of current scams identified on sites such as scamwatch.gov.au, cyber.gov.au and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s website dedicated to informing people about fraudulent and dishonest activities. If you have been the victim of a scam report it to scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam. Scamwatch has received over 6415 scam reports related to the coronavirus with more than 9 million dollars in losses since the initial outbreak. With vaccines and RATs in short supply in areas around Australia, some scam artists are taking the opportunity to ask for payment in exchange for early access to vaccines or tests. Many scams rely on getting you to click fraudulent links, and will impersonate government agencies or trustworthy groups to convince you to click the link. Fake texts that appear to be sent from a government agency can try and persuade you to give your personal information to fraudsters. If it seems a government group wants you to check or input information on a website, access the website from a separate browser. Don’t click the link sent, and never share personal or financial information over the phone. Just hang up. Scam artists can and will often target emotional triggers such as loneliness or passion to get you to provide money, information or gifts. Often through online dating websites but also seen on social media, fraudulent actors will pretend to be romantically interested and even begin a long-term relationship that can last for months before asking for money or information. In some scenarios, they’ll even ask for intimate or revealing pictures that could be used as blackmail material. On that note, sometimes scam artists will send you threatening text messages or emails threatening you with sharing intimate photos or videos with your friends, family or professional contacts. These sorts of cons rely on the immediate fear of being embarrassed or shamed publicly to convince you to pay up, but they rarely have any actual material to threaten you with. They are trying to scare you, but that’s all it is. Simply delete the message and don’t engage. And of course, don’t put photos online that you would be uncomfortable with others seeing. Flubot scams are some of the most common attempts to steal information at the current time. Australians are still receiving scam text messages about missed calls, voicemails, deliveries and photo uploads. The text messages ask you to tap on a link to download or access something. Doing so will download a specific type of malware to your device. The most common version is preying on the rise in online shopping, offering updates on parcel tracking to convince you to click links sent through text messages. If you can’t verify authenticity, don’t click it. Golden Rules Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s always best to approach any mysterious messages with skepticism and never click links that you don’t recognise. Never give personal, revealing or financial information over the phone or to somebody you don’t know and trust. If in doubt regarding the authenticity, get help. Consult a trusted friend, or contact authorities to verify the information. Finally, nobody actually wants to be paid in gift cards except scam artists. Government agencies will absolutely never ask you to pay fines or fees with a gift card, and anyone asking for payment in the form of a gift card should be treated with caution. More information on types of scams, reporting options and updates are available at scamwatch.gov.au.

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