Otago Daily Times

Government preparing to combat online vaccine scams

- ROWAN QUINN

WELLINGTON: Government agencies are gearing up to combat a barrage of vaccinerel­ated scams expected to hit during the Covid19 immunisati­on campaign.

Other countries have been dealing with cyber criminals using the rollouts as an angle for a scam.

The director of the Government’s cyber security agency Cert, Rob Pope, said the efraudster­s were always looking for a new way in.

‘‘It’s just another variation to the Kaikoura earthquake­s or the horrible Christchur­ch mosque shootings, where scammers are taking advantage of community harms, community distress and putting in quite sophistica­ted scams to extract money from people,’’ he said.

The agency was working with others around the world to try to get ahead of the types of scams expected here.

Many were emailbased, sometimes with fake logos to look legitimate.

Some asked people to pay for vaccines, to secure their place in the queue or some were fake appointmen­ts, Mr Pope said.

‘‘It’s all directed at initially stealing credit card informatio­n or personal informatio­n so they can extract money down the line,’’ he said.

In Britain, a woman in her 80s lost £30,000 ($NZ57,300) after she thought she was giving her bank details to the National Health Service. In the United States, people were warned to stop posting selfies with their vaccine card, with all their informatio­n there for the taking.

Covid19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said if people received emails out of the blue asking for personal details related to Covid19, it was likely to be a scam, even if it appeared to be from a legitimate health agency.

The vaccine was free in New Zealand so any email asking for money was also fake, he said.

Mr Pope said attacks on IT systems were also possible and, through the Ministry of Health, Cert was urging GP clinics and other health providers to make sure their security was up to date.

Social media platforms and search engines have been slammed for their role in allowing misinforma­tion to spread.

Mr Hipkins said Facebook and Google had both contacted the Government to tell it they would be taking action to fight that during the immunisati­on campaigns. — RNZ

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