COVIDSafe App Hoax on Phone Screen
Home COVID-19 COVIDSafe App Hoax Message Being Distributed

COVIDSafe App Hoax Message Being Distributed

by Brett M. Christensen

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.

Fake COVIDSafe App Message

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.

Due to its controversial nature, the app has been the subject of intense scrutiny from many security experts. If the app was really sending out messages like the one in the image,  – and thereby violating its stated purpose and breaking its own privacy policy – there would already be considerable public outcry both from privacy experts and affected members of the public.

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

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,