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Australian Govt Warns of COVID Scams

A face mask notice is seen in a shopping mall in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 14, 2021. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei/IANS)

The Australian government on Monday warned of scams targeting people relying on Covid-19 disaster payments.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently revealed that along with major banks, it has identified a slew of scams related to coronavirus support payments, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to the ACCC, 69 scams have been reported and in four cases more than A$37,000 ($26,401) were stolen.

Linda Reynolds, the Minister for Government Services, described scammers targeting vulnerable Australians amid widespread outbreaks of Covid-19 as a “low act”.

“The agency is acutely aware of the unfortunate risk of scams and provides secure ways of claiming online,” she was quoted as saying by The Canberra Times on Monday.

“Services Australia will never contact customers about a new claim for payment if they have not applied first online, over the phone or in a service centre.”

The federal Covid-19 disaster payment is worth about A$750 per week for full-time employees who are unable to work due to lockdowns.

Some of the reported scams involved criminals purporting to be from the government and asking for a victim’s financial details.

Recently, about half the Australian population in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory(ACT) are in lockdown as the country continues to battle the third wave of Covid-19 infections.

Ben Young, head of fraud at Westpac bank, said isolation made people more prone to scams.

“Being separated from others while in lockdown, experiencing changes to your employment and spending more time transacting online can make us more vulnerable to scammers,” he said.

“Our research shows that in the last year, self-employed Australians and those who were looking for work were twice as likely to have been scammed.”

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