Watch out for scams during COVID-19: here’s how to protect yourself
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant we’re all spending extra time online as we study, connect and stay informed. Unfortunately, however, there has also been a rise in cybercriminal activity that targets particular groups, including students. According to Scamwatch, cybercriminals intentionally use emergencies such as COVID-19 to encourage feelings of fear to force people to make decisions quickly.
As a student, you should be especially cautious of potential scams in any unsolicited or unexpected communications you receive. These communications can be sophisticated and may look legitimate in appearance.
We’ve recently had multiple reports of scammers posing as representatives of either Deakin or the police who are targeting students – particularly international students – for large sums of money. These students have been contacted directly and asked for sums as large as $100,000.
Deakin will never contact students directly, or through agents in China, to ask you for money. The police will also never ask someone to pay money in exchange for a guarantee of not prosecuting them in Australia.
If you receive an email or SMS with this kind of request, it is a scam.
Worried about a dodgy-looking email or link? Here’s what to do
If you receive a university-related email you’re unsure about – whether it’s from someone you don’t know, the details appear incorrect, or the email address looks odd – do not click on any links or attachments in the email.
Immediately report the email to Deakin’s cybersecurity team via the ‘Phish Alert’ toolbar in your Outlook window. If you’re not using Outlook, forward the email to [email protected].
There are no consequences for reporting a legitimate email, so remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. And don’t be embarrassed to report any suspicious activity – your experience may help prevent another student from being scammed.
Find out more about link safety and why you should think before you click.
How to stay safe online
- Be aware of the messages you receive via email, text or on social media. If you get junk or unsolicited emails or messages, ignore and delete them.
- Exercise caution in handling any email with a coronavirus-related subject line, attachment or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts or calls related to COVID-19.
- If you want to make a charity donation, go to the charity website of your choice to submit your payment. Type the charity’s web address in your browser instead of clicking on any links in emails or other messages.
- Look out for requests for payment in unusual methods such as bitcoin – this is a common indicator of dodgy activity.
- Don’t respond straight away, especially if you’re feeling panicked. Always stop to think about a request for you to click or download a link, or provide personal information and/or money. Ask yourself: is the request appropriate?
- Never give your bank details or money to people you don’t know or for reasons you’re unclear about. This includes your personal, credit card or online account details. If you think your accounts have been accessed illegally, contact your financial institution immediately for advice.
More information and help
- If you ever feel unsafe, contact Victoria Police by calling Triple Zero (000) straight away for emergency help.
- Contact Deakin’s Safer Community service if you want to report inappropriate or threatening behaviour, or you’re worried about something that doesn’t feel quite right.
- Our cybersecurity blog highlights the latest known online scams. It contains handy hints on protecting your personal information when using your mobile phone or shopping online and tells you how to report scams on various social media sites.
- If you think you’ve been targeted by scammers, or you’re unsure about a request to share your personal information, seek free legal advice and advocacy at Deakin or contact our International Student Advisers before you do anything.
- Scamwatch has loads of information about common scams, including those related to COVID-19.