On Tuesday, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed that the government would start sending coronavirus texts messages to Australians. Now they're starting to go out.
When questioned over a lack of strong and consistent government advertising around coronavirus hygiene, Hunt stated, "one of the items part of the next phase as we continue to expand the advertising, will be direct text messaging."
On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Australian Government tweeted confirmation of the messages being sent to citizens and what the message would contain.
This text message is being sent to mobile phones across Australia from this morning. Please listen and act so we can save lives. https://t.co/jB85dKHpw8
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 24, 2020
It reads: "Coronavirus Aus Gov msg: To stop the spread, stay 1.5m from others, follow rules on social gatherings, wash hands, stay home if sick."
Some Twitter users already reported receiving the message:
Just got it pic.twitter.com/RtGTu0v5Kb
— jack (@jackisahack_) March 24, 2020
The first official text message from the Government is... underwhelming... pic.twitter.com/W6uA2c7iBE
— Carrick Ryan (@realCarrickRyan) March 24, 2020
I also received the message at 10:12am AEDT.
According to Tom McIlory from The Australian the text message will be sent out to 36 million Australians. It is currently unclear whether landline phones will also be utilised to get the message out. Both mobile phones and landlines are used in times of disaster via Australia's Emergency Alert System.
According to the Emergency Alert Systems website, these texts rely on telco networks to be sent. So if you do receive the text message you will most likely see the sender as your telco.
In my case, it was sent to me from 'AUVodafone'.
Not everyone will receive the texts at once as 36 million is a huge number, so batch sending will most likely be implemented. For example, my partner and I are on the same network and he is yet to receive the text.
There may be other reasons for not getting the message, being in a mobile black spot or your phone being switched off.
If you do receive a text message regarding COVID-19, don't click on any links. Even if it's from the government. Coronavirus related scams are sadly doing the rounds and text messages are a common thing used by scammers.
Though the official Australian government text has a link to aus.gov.au we suggest typing that into your mobile browser rather than clicking on the hyperlink. A text like this would not be difficult for scammers to replicate.
The Australian government sending COVID-19 text messages to citizens follows similar measures in the UK yesterday.
Coronavirus Scams Australia
When in doubt, it's worth following these guidelines from the Scam Watch:
- Be aware of fraudulent emails claiming to be from experts saying that they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the
- coronavirus, visit the Department of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Be careful of fake online shopping sites requesting unusual payment methods such as upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. Information is available at: Online Shopping Scams.
- The best way to detect a fake trader or social media online shopping scam is to search for reviews before purchasing. No vaccine or cure presently exists for the coronavirus.
- Don’t let anyone pressure you to make quick decisions. Take your time and consider who you are dealing with.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails, text messages or social media messages you’ve received from strangers — just press delete.
- Never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details — just press delete or hang up.
- Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.
- If you are planning to donate, do your research. If you are donating to crowdfunding requests, check the terms and conditions of funding platforms and ensure you are dealing with official organisations.
- If you are donating to an established charity or not-for-profit organisation, ensure it is registered and that you are on its official website by searching the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Register.
- Stay up to date with latest consumer advice relating to COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the ACCC website at: www.accc.gov.au/covid-19.
The Federal Government will begin texting Australians, with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt confirming on Tuesday that the government will directly message Australians to encourage stronger social distancing.