Constituency Statement: Coronavirus Scams

  • May 13, 2020

The current coronavirus crisis has shown Australians at their very best. Yet, disgustingly, there some out there, both from here and abroad, who are seeking to make financial gain off those who are anxious and vulnerable. This is a time when many are fearful for their health and safety and that of their families, but we cannot afford to let our guard down when it comes to scammers pretending to offer much needed help or advice. The ACCC’s scamwatch.gov.au website has received over 2,000 coronavirus related scam reports, with over $700,000 in reported losses since the COVID-19 outbreak commenced. To avoid being scammed, it’s important that we remember to follow some simple advice: don’t click on unexpected documents or hyperlinks in texts, social media messages or emails, even if they appear to come from a trusted source, and never respond to unsolicited messages, emails and phone calls that ask for personal or financial details, even if they claim to be from a reputable organisation or government authority. If you do think you have identified a scam, it’s important to visit scamwatch.gov.au to report it so that others aren’t caught out. The scammers can be exceptionally convincing, and, importantly, we should all be alerting others, especially our senior Australians, to any scams we come across.

Other ways in which people seek to play on our fears during the crisis include through spreading misinformation about the health aspects of the virus. We are seeing the quacks and the charlatans trying to have their moment in the sun. The case of Pete Evans and the infamous BioCharger has perhaps been the most prominent example we have seen here in Australia. One such false claim which has provoked scores of emails to my office is that the flu vaccination can cause recipients to become more susceptible to coronavirus. To be very clear: the flu vaccine does not contain live viruses and does not weaken our immune system. The reality is that there has never been a more important time to get your flu shots. Getting the flu and coronavirus at the same time could be a very deadly combination indeed. We know the flu is responsible for thousands of deaths each year, and any person trying to convince others to avoid being vaccinated is being recklessly and cruelly irresponsible.

The final pace of this cavalcade of coronavirus nonsense is the claim by conspiracy theorists that 5G radio waves are somehow linked to the virus. This is an absolutely baseless claim which has been refuted time and again by radiation and medical experts. The coronavirus crisis is a time in which we must all be listening to proper health advice, guided by expert health officials. Australia is home to some of the best in the world, and we can be proud of their contribution to the global efforts to fight this virus. So, to all Australians, I urge you to be cautious and alert to anything that seems too good to be true or just an outright lie. We will get through this together based on good science and good advice, which thankfully we have in abundance in our country.