More than ever, communications and media services are critical to Australians. We’re actively working with the industries we regulate to help them maintain these critical services while continuing to provide important consumer safeguards.
Here are some tips on how to stay safely connected during this time.
Watch out for COVID-19 scams
Unfortunately, scammers use crises like the pandemic to target Australians. We are advising Australians to be vigilant about scammers using calls, SMS and emails to exploit the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Some scammers pretend to be government agencies providing information about COVID-19 and related support services (including financial assistance) to trick consumers. These scams may look like trusted brands or entities or use scare tactics to trick you into giving personal and financial details. Some are even attempting to steal superannuation or threatening Australians with fake arrest warrants.
If it sounds suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is. Hang up, block calls or texts and don’t click on links in SMS messages.
If in doubt, verify who is contacting you by looking them up and calling back on a legitimate, published number, or go directly to their website. For example, to reach the MyGov website, type ‘my.gov.au’ into your browser, rather than clicking on a link in a text.
We are working with the telco industry and a range of government bodies to reduce these scams and we provide regular alerts on current scams. You can subscribe to our phone scam alerts and keep an eye out for scam updates on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Remember that scams target everyone. Read our information on how to spot – and stop – phone scams.
Online COVID-19 misinformation
Some of what you see or read online about COVID-19 may not be true, particularly on social media. Sometimes it's hard to tell misunderstandings or false information apart from facts.
You can take the following steps to inform and protect yourself:
- Check the source: Does the content come from a reputable website or a verified account?
- Look for the facts: Is the content factual, or is it just someone’s opinion? Be extra careful if it relates to an emotionally charged or divisive issue.
- Read the full story: Headlines and images can be misleading and may only give part of the story. Check the date of publication to see if the content is current.
- Verify the information: You can visit fact-checking websites (AAP FactCheck, RMIT ABC Fact Check and AFP Fact Check) for debunked COVID-19 claims, the Department of Health’s Is It True? website for answers to common questions about the CVOID-19 vaccine, and your local state or territory health department website for accurate up-to-date information on the pandemic and current restrictions.
- If in doubt, don’t share it. You can also report false COVID-19 content directly to the social media platform that you saw it on.
The Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation seeks to protect Australians against harm from online disinformation and misinformation. A range of digital platforms – including Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok – are signatories to this code, and are taking steps to reduce the spread and visibility of false COVID-19 claims.
Find out more about online misinformation and the development of the code.
Accuracy of broadcast news
The accuracy and accessibility of news and other critical information broadcast on commercial and national broadcasters remains essential during the pandemic.
There are rules in place that require accuracy in news that are enforced by the ACMA.
The ACMA will prioritise investigating allegations of inaccuracy of news content that directly relate to COVID-19 during this time. Find out how to complain about a broadcast on television or radio on our website.
Dealing with your telco during the pandemic
Phone and internet services are critical to keeping Australians connected during the pandemic. The Australian Government is working with the telco industry to help ensure that the reliability, connection and continuity of services is maintained, including for Australians experiencing hardship or who are otherwise in vulnerable circumstances.
Telcos are working hard to maintain services to their customers and to provide the network capacity needed to support home-based work, schooling and increased use of online services.
Telcos, like many workplaces, are also adapting to new ways of working. Some telco contact centres are operating with lower staffing levels due to COVID-19 restrictions, so you may experience longer than usual wait times on calls.
This may also effect getting problems fixed as quickly as usual. It’s a good time to check out resources available from your provider on choosing the right internet speed or optimising your home set-up that may help you fix some problems yourself. This might include improving modem and wi-fi performance, checking in-home cabling and choosing the best speed for your needs. Take a look at our videos about some common problems in your home that can affect internet performance and how to fix them.
If you are having problems you cannot fix, contact your telco. If you are not happy with your telco’s response, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
Hardship help from your telco
If you or your business are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, telcos have financial hardship programs to assist you to keep connected.
Some telcos have helpfully increased the amount of data offered on mobile or internet plans, allowed free calls or other discounts to certain customers, or made calls to some government services free.
Please check out your telco’s hardship program and contact them if you need help.
Triple Zero and Priority Assistance
Accessible and reliable emergency call services are always critical, and the free Triple Zero (000) service is available 100% of the time during the pandemic.
Important additional information about how to contact emergency services is on our website, including guidance for people with hearing or speech impairments and for those in an emergency where it is not safe to speak.
Priority Assistance is a special service that some telcos, including Telstra, provide. It applies to landline services for people with life-threatening medical conditions.
It gives you faster fault repairs, shorter time to connect new services and more reliable service. Speak to your telco about what they can do if you have a serious medical condition.
The risks of online gambling
With many people finding themselves at home or spending more time online during the pandemic, we are concerned about the harms that can occur from illegal online gambling, especially offshore services that target Australians.
We strongly encourage you to not take the risk with these services. Even if you win, you might lose. You might not be able to access your money or even have additional unauthorised funds withdrawn.
Keep your family safe online
Staying connected online has never been more important, now that many of us are physically isolated from family members, friends, colleagues and support networks.
The eSafety Commissioner has a range of resources for parents, carers, educators and seniors to help keep Australians safe online.