Seven people in Western Australia duped by online COVID-19 scams have lost a total of almost $70,000, with authorities warning the pandemic has presented fraudsters with a “golden opportunity”.

A Chinese student in Perth lost $13,800 when scammers, claiming to be from the Shanghai Medical Centre, called to report her coronavirus results.

Consumer Protection said she was tricked into thinking she had been transferred to police, then was told she was facing charges.

The scammers, whom she communicated with via DingTalk, demanded money and she also sent them a copy of her passport.

Fake websites, social media pages and advertisements have also been used to fool other people into thinking their online purchases were delayed due to coronavirus, Consumer Protection warns.

Three people lost a total of more than $50,000 after purchasing second-hand farm machinery from fake websites that used the names Bora Machinery and Coastal Machinery.

The victims were directed to bogus company Australia MD Transport for delivery and were later told travel restrictions were to blame for the delay, Consumer Protection said.

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In a separate case, a person lost $1000 when they tried to purchase a mobile phone through a fake Facebook page using the name of a known retailer, claiming their store was currently closed.

Another person lost $1500 from a Facebook Marketplace ad when they tried to buy a phone from a bogus store, while another person spent $2000 on a puppy bought from a fake website claiming the virus had delayed delivery.

Consumer Protection Commissioner Lanie Chopping said online shoppers should stick to reputable retailers, rather than making impulse purchases through unknown websites.

“If the online retailer is asking for a direct bank transfer, that is a clear warning sign,” she said.

“Try to always pay with a credit card or via PayPal as there is a better chance you’ll get your money refunded through a charge-back.”

AAP

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