Victorians are being warned about scammers posing as coronavirus contact tracers demanding people hand over their credit card details for a one-off payment.
After a viral warning circulated on social media, the Department of Health and Human Services addressed the issue Friday, assuring residents of the state that public health officer’s would never request payment for a coronavirus test.
One woman shared an example of one of the scam phone calls to Facebook which detailed the high-pressure tactics used by the scam artists.
The post, understood to have been distributed by several people, depicted a caller informing the recipient they had “been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19”.
The targets were then informed they needed to self isolate for seven days and be tested for coronavirus.
The caller apparently refused to say where they may have been infected or by who, and instead insisted that a test needed to be done within 72 hours of the phone call.
After requesting a home address to “mail the kit”, the caller reportedly then asked for a “payment card so that we can finalise this and send the kit to you”.
The recipient questioned the caller over the cost, expressing confusion given it was well known that the tests were free.
“No - I'm afraid not. There is a one-off fee of $50 for the kit and test results. Could you read off the long card number for me, please, when you're ready,” the caller then reportedly responded.
The recipient remained adamant that handing over card details was “not right”, while the caller persisted with threatening them with “penalties for not complying”.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addressed the “ugly” ploy, scolding any scammers who seek to get money out of vulnerable and trusting people.
“I think that anytime people behave in that sort of completely immoral, unconscionable way, that is a challenge,” Mr Andrews told reporters Saturday.
“I am confident that between the health department, consumer affairs in Victoria and potentially Victoria Police, if that is appropriate, we can deal with that.”
He assured Victorians that members of the contact tracing team would never request credit card or banking details, unless they were setting up a payment to give to an “insecure worker”.
“If you have rung them, or if you are a positive case, we have to get money to you if you are eligible for that $1500 payment,” he said.
The perpetrators, if found out, would be hit with harsh penalties, Mr Andrews said.
We have received reports of calls from people claiming to be from the Department requesting credit card details for testing kits. Please be aware that this is not a call from DHHS-our contact tracers will not request payment.
Info on #COVID19 scams: https://t.co/FFj50g4KvP pic.twitter.com/Smg4GvCIue
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) July 24, 2020
“It is an ugly feature of our modern world. Yes, that is awful. Awful. But people should be confident there is a team, thousands of people, that are out there working night and day to do that contact tracing.”
Victoria recorded 357 new cases on Saturday, bringing the current total to 3,995 known active cases across the state right now.
Scammers claiming to be from commonwealth agencies and offering to help victims of the coronavirus pandemic tap into their super have pocketed more than $1.26 million so far this year.
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