How pranksters are using COVID-19 to cause chaos



Pranksters impersonating health authorities are endangering lives by making false calls to alert people of bogus coronavirus test results, it has emerged.

It is believed at least one man has been tricked into wandering around a regional Victorian city while infectious with COVID-19 after receiving a false call from pranksters pretending to be Department of Health and Human Services officers.

In another instance, a Ballarat pharmacy needlessly closed after getting a bogus call warning a coronavirus-positive person had been in the shop.

A state government spokeswoman slammed the behaviour and called for any false claims to be referred to Victoria Police.

"We're all working hard to do the right thing, so this kind of behaviour is appalling and completely unacceptable," she said. "We urge all Victorians to use trusted government sources for advice about coronavirus.

"If anyone has concerns about a call or any information provided, they can call the Department of Health and Human Services on 1800 675 398 or request a confirmation email be sent with instructions on how to proceed if there is a positive case."

It is believed a man in regional Victoria with mild symptoms underwent a coronavirus test and self-isolated while awaiting the result, having also warned those he had been in close contact with.

But after receiving a call from a person claiming to be from DHHS telling him his test was negative, it is believed the man stopped isolating.

It was only when he received a genuine call from DHHS the next day informing him the test results were positive he realised the first call had been fake.

Chemist Warehouse in the Ballarat suburb of Sebastopol also fell victim to a hoax, evacuating staff on Friday after a call from someone saying they were from Ballarat Base Hospital. When the pharmacy later called the hospital to seek advice about what it should do next, staff were told there had not been any new positive COVID-19 cases, nor calls made to Chemist Warehouse.

The pharmacy later issued a warning to others to be wary of dangerous prank calls.


Originally published as How pranksters are using COVID-19 to cause chaos