How Chinese Australians are being targeted by coronavirus scammers with phone calls threatening arrest or deportation
- Fraudsters targeting Chinese Australian community with coronavirus scams
- Scamwatch warns of sharp rise in scams offering COVID-19 miracle cures
- Vulnerable Chinese students told to hang up on anyone asking for personal data
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Chinese Australians are being targeted by phone and email fraudsters, with almost 100 cases of coronavirus scams reported since January 1.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission branch Scamwatch, said fraudsters are attempting to obtain personal financial information from victims by impersonating government officials and threatening them with extreme punishments if they refuse to comply.
Scamwatch warns that fake websites selling miracle cures for COVID-19 have also been on the rise.
Fraudsters are targeting Chinese Australian community with coronavirus scams as anxiety about the virus grows
Sydney’s Chinatown district (pictured March 24, 2020) left deserted following government announcement to close restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses
‘Understandably, people want information on the pandemic, but they should be wary of emails or text messages claiming to be from experts,’ Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.
‘Unfortunately, scammers are using the uncertainty around COVID-19, or coronavirus, to take advantage of people.’
In some cases, phishing scams are being sent out via text message or email claiming to have vital information on the coronavirus, while in other instances callers speaking in Mandarin will threaten their victims over the phone claiming to be from Chinese authorities, the World Health Authority or the Department of Health.
‘The scammer will tell their victims, usually students, that they have been involved in criminal activity, and threaten them and even their family, with criminal sanctions unless they pretend they have been kidnapped, including by taking photos of themselves bound and gagged,’ Ms Rickard said.
‘Scammers will then use these photos to extort money from the student’s family by claiming the student has been kidnapped.’
With around 900 cases of scams targeting the Chinese community across Australia in 2019, Scamwatch said fraudsters reeled in more than $1.5 million from their victims.
Sydney’s Chinatown (pictured March, 24, 2020) remains a virtual ghost town with all non-essential travel banned in Australia to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus
A man (pictured March 24, 2020) eats alone at an empty foodcourt in Sydney’s Chinatown, after the shutdown of all non-essential services was put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease
‘The most important thing members of the Chinese community in Australia can do to protect themselves from this scam is be aware about how it works and warn their friends and family,’ Ms Rickard said.
‘If you’re ever called by someone making threats about arrest or deportation, it is a scam. It’s very frightening to receive these calls and scammers use your fear against you so you’ll send them money or participate in a bogus kidnapping.
‘Don’t fall for their threats. Instead, hang up the phone and report it to your local police. If you think the scammer has your bank account details, contact your bank immediately.’
If you think you may have been the victim of a scam, you should contact your bank or financial institution immediately and file a report with Scamwatch.