News outlets in Australia are reporting on a hoax message that falsely claims to have been sent by the newly released COVIDSafe app.
The circulating message is reportedly being sent to random recipients via text message and screenshots of the notification are also being shared on social media.
The text of the notification claims that the COVIDSafe App has detected you are now +20km from your nominated home address. It instructs you to call a phone number to register your reason for travelling within 15 mins of receiving the SMS.
However, the message is fake and was not sent by the COVIDSafe app or the Australian Government.
The Australian Government’s COVIDSafe app is somewhat controversial and has raised concerns among privacy advocates. However, the app is not designed to track the movements of people in the way implied in the fake message and there is no evidence to indicate that it is doing so. When installing the app, you do provide a postcode but you do not nominate a home address. And the app does not police lockdown or social distancing regulations. That is not its purpose.
The Australian Government Department of Health website explains:
The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The app helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
The COVIDSafe app speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. This means you’ll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing on the virus to your family, friends and other people in the community.
The fake message includes a genuine government phone number. It does not appear to be a scam designed to steal personal information. This suggests that the message’s purpose is simply to raise fear and alarm about the new app.
According to ABC News, the Australian Federal Police are now investigating the hoax.
Transcript of the hoax message:
The COVIDSafe App has detected you are now +20km from your nominated home address. Please register your reason for travel by calling 1300 1MY GOV (+61 1300 169 468) within 15 minutes of receiving this SMS