COVID-19: Scammers targeting people trying to protect themselves from virus

Be wary: Almost 5000 scams have been reported to authorities in the past three months.
Be wary: Almost 5000 scams have been reported to authorities in the past three months.

Scammers are picking off thousands of people trying to buy personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past three months, 4907 scam incidents in NSW have been reported to the Australian Government.

While not all of them are people who are trying to by personal protective equipment, Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said cases of this type of scam are increasing.

"There's been quite a disturbing increase in incidents of those who are seeking to purchase PPE materials," he said.

"[People] obviously may feel slightly distressed and they need to access that sort of protection earlier than maybe normal supply networks allow."

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As a result of the increased number of of attempts to defraud individuals, the NSW Police has increased the number of people working in its fraud and cyber crime unit from 10 to 18 people.

"Make sure that when you're doing business with somebody online that you are very, very confident that they are who they say they are," Mr Elliott said.

"This is very, very important particularly for the elderly who are less likely to go out and therefore rely more on online activity, but also families who are purchasing groceries."

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott

Mr Elliott said unfortunately scammers will always be attracted to e-commerce opportunities where they can conduct criminal activities and target the vulnerable.

"The police can only do so much, the appeal of course from the government today and the NSW Police is to take ownership of your own internet safety, but know full well that NSW Police are there to assist you in that regard," he said.

Visit Scamwatch to find out more.

This story Scammers target people trying to protect themselves from COVID-19 first appeared on The Canberra Times.