Scammers taking advantage of COVID-19 to target small businesses

26 May 2021

  • Scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to target Australian small businesses with a range of scams including phishing, vaccine supply scams and email compromise
  • Protect your business by using best practice and know the common small business scam tactics to look out for
  • Learn more by downloading the Be COVID Fraud Aware guide from business.gov.au

ASIC is urging Australians to be wary of scammers using the COVID-19 pandemic to target small businesses. Scammers often target small business owners as they recognise that they are busy and may have limited resources to keep systems safe. Common scams aimed at small businesses are outlined below.

Phishing

Scammers often impersonate a government department or trusted business to trick you into providing personal, business or financial information or downloading software that steals it.

  • Genuine emails will not include links to sign in pages, or ask for your personal information, account details, PIN or passwords.
  • If you are unsure, do not click on any links or attachments. Instead, contact the organisation using a trusted information source that you’ve found and verified yourself.
  • Make sure your business computers have up-to-date security software.

Business email compromise

Scammers may pretend to be a supplier or employee (by unlawfully using a real suppliers’ or employees’ email account or by using a real suppliers’ company logo and branding), but request you make payments to a different bank account controlled by scammers.

  • If unsure, always call to confirm changes such as bank details, even if an explanation is provided by email.
  • Educate your staff to be on the lookout for unusual activity.

Supply scams

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out in Australia, scammers may ask you to pay for vaccines, or get early access to vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines are voluntary, free and available to all people living in Australia.  You cannot pay to get early access to vaccines or obtain fake vaccine certificates.

What to do if you are scammed or want to report a scam

You can report any suspected scams to SCAMwatch. You can also make a report to the Australian Cyber Security Centre at ReportCyber.  

For scams involving financial services or investments, lodge a report of misconduct with ASIC.

Your report may disrupt the scammers and hopefully will warn others to avoid it.

Download the guide

For more information on scams and where to find further assistance, download the Be COVID Fraud Aware guide from business.gov.au.

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ASIC is Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator.

Last updated: 26/05/2021 12:00