MyState Bank calls for Australians to be extra vigilant amidst growing COVID-19 scams

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The risk of individuals falling victim to criminal scammers significantly heightened since the outbreak of Coronavirus.

MyState Bank are urging Australians to exercise more caution online, with the risk of individuals falling victim to criminal scammers significantly heightened since the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

MyState Bank General Manager of Digital and Marketing, Heather McGovern, said the current environment is ripe for criminals looking to exploit the fear and anxiety around the virus itself, and its implications on an individual’s financial wellbeing.

“We are seeing many instances of neighbourhoods and communities coming together to support each other during these times,” she said. “However, there is also a dark side where criminals are using highly sophisticated scams to obtain personal information from members of the community, especially the most vulnerable amongst us.

“The most common ways fraudsters are trying to line their own pockets during this time is through phishing scams sent via email or text messages providing seemingly ‘official’ information about Coronavirus. The sender claims to be from government departments, health agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and even legitimate businesses in the travel and telecommunications sectors. In addition, phishing scams may be forwarded or shared via social media by a relative or friend in good faith, and we would urge people to be cautious of such forwarded information.

“These emails will often ask receivers to click on an attachment or embedded link which will likely download malicious software onto their device to allow scammers free reign over their personal information or financial data,” she said.

Other examples of scams include Coronavirus-inspired advertisements which more than often have a sense of urgency, encouraging the receiver to “Act Now.”

Following the announcement of the Government’s economic support package around early release of superannuation, there have also been instances of scammers attempting to get their hands on the super of unsuspecting victims or offering unnecessary services for a fee.

Australians should be aware there is no need to involve a third party or any fees involved in the early release of superannuation entitlements.

Ms McGovern said that Australians are being constantly overloaded with information from different sources during this time, making it difficult to determine what is legitimate and what is a potential scam.

“In line with our commitment to our core values, MyState Bank is focused on educating customers and the wider community to spot the warning signs of fraud and possible scams they may be targeted with.

“Keeping customer accounts secure is a top priority for us and we have invested heavily in the most comprehensive security measures for online banking, debit cards and ATMs in Australia,” she said.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch, there have been more than 90 reports of scams related to Coronavirus since 1 January 2020, with figures expected to further increase.

However, Ms McGovern said with more awareness we will likely see these numbers diminish.

“We are urging everyone to be on their guard and watch out for themselves and vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who are at increased risk of becoming a target for fraudsters in these uncertain and challenging times, and we encourage customers to reach out to their banks for clarifications and support if needed” she said.

Tips to protect yourself, and others, from COVID-19-inspired scams:

  • Beware of any online requests or unsolicited phone calls requesting personal or financial details. Remember it is highly unlikely that a government department or other legitimate businesses will ask for this sort of information via these channels.
  • If you have received unsolicited contact and are unsure, look up the number of the organisation on their website and call to validate – don’t use the number provided in the message. If it is a scam, they will likely want to know too.
  • Inspect all email addresses and links by hovering your mouse over the URL to see where it leads. If something looks suspicious, don’t click on it or provide any personal information. If in doubt, then check if it’s legitimate with the sender.
  • Apply an eagle eye when inspecting emails for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.
  • Receiving an email with a generic greeting such as “Dear Sir or Madam” is a huge giveaway that you are likely reading a phishing email – delete it!
  • Report any suspicious behaviour to the relevant authorities including the Australian Securities Investment Commissions (ASIC) and ACCC. In fact, the ACCC’s Scamwatch is a good source of information to help you recognise and avoid scams, allowing you to subscribe for on-the-spot email alerts on the latest scams.
  • Lastly, always ensure you get your updates on coronavirus from legitimate sources such as the WHO and the Australian Government Department of Health.

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