Warning of scams targeting people with disability during COVID-19

Tags Accessibility Advice

Posted 2 months ago by Rebecca St Clair

According to information supplied by the NDIS, there are a number of scams that could impact people with a disability that they need to look out for. (Source: Shutterstock)
According to information supplied by the NDIS, there are a number of scams that could impact people with a disability that they need to look out for. (Source: Shutterstock)

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is warning people with disability about online scams, as scammers take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak to target vulnerable people. 

Common scams include phishing for personal information, online shopping, and superannuation scams with scammers commonly impersonating entities such as Government organisations.

SCAMwatch, a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides information about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

A spokesperson for the ACCC says that since 1 January 2020 SCAMwatch has received over 2,000 reports mentioning COVID-19, with losses of over $700,000.

Fifty-three of those reports were from people who identified as having a disability, with losses from shopping scams of $600.

“Scammers tend to capitalise on disasters and other current events to manipulate peoples’ vulnerability to steal their money or personal information. Scammers are using the spread of coronavirus to exploit and play on the fears of all consumers.

The ACCC adds that “Scammers are doing things such as falsely selling coronavirus-related products online, and using fake emails or text messages to try and obtain personal data.”

Scams targeting people with disability 

According to information supplied by the NDIS, there are a number of scams that could impact people with a disability that they need to look out for.

The NDIS has already flagged invoicing scams where scammers are sending fraudulent billing emails asking people to pay an invoice into an account that is different to the one listed on the invoice.  

They advise that if you receive any emails like this, you check with your provider over the phone to see if there was any change to their bank details. 

There has also been an increase in charity and phishing scams relating to COVID-19. 

With a phishing scam, viruses or malware are sent via links in emails, documents, or on websites.

For example, scammers claim to provide information about protecting against COVID-19 or claiming a payment. But when you click to open an attachment or click on a link, the virus or malware attached accesses and collects personal information from your computer. 

Scammers sending phishing scams often pretend to be government organisations such as the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the Australian Taxation Office, or even the World Health Organisation. 

According to SCAMwatch, scammers may contact you by:

  • Calling you or coming to your door.

  • Contacting you via social media, email or text message.

  • Setting up websites that look real.

  • Impersonating government organisations, businesses or friends.

You can report any NDIS related scams to the fraud reporting hotline by calling 1800 650 717 or emailing [email protected].

Protecting yourself against scams 

It is always important to make sure that you are protected from scammers and that you are keeping your personal information safe, but even more so in the current climate. 

SCAMWatch has provided advice on how to protect yourself from scams: 

  • Before buying something online make sure you've researched the seller for example by reading reviews to detect a fake trader or social media shopping scam.

  • Be wary of sellers requesting unusual payment methods such as upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin.

  • Don’t click on links in text/social media messages or emails, even if it appears to come from a trusted source.

  • Go directly to the website through your browser. For example, to reach the MyGov website type ‘my.gov.au’ into your browser yourself.

  • Never respond to unexpected messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details, even if they claim to be from a reputable organisation or government authority - just press delete or hang up.

Visit our dedicated COVID-19 information page for the latest updates on how COVID-19 is impacting the disability sector.

What are you doing to protect yourself from COVID-19 scams? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected].

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