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Staying safe online: COVID-19 scams

The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for everyone. But for migrants and overseas workers, the current climate has made it especially tough to live and work. Without being able to physically hold your family and friends, you may be left feeling particularly fearful, helpless, and alone. Protecting yourself from COVID-19 whilst continuing to support your loved ones overseas can often seem like an impossible task.

At One World Connect, we understand that the very last thing you need is to be targeted by scam artists and cyber criminals during this crisis.  

Around the world, reports of scams relating to coronavirus have been rising.

With the entire world shifting further online, it’s important to remain in control of all your personal information and finances. To help you stay safe from these online scams, we have listed below the top COVID-19 scams to look out for.

  1. VACCINATION SCAMS

These scams include offers of mailing and early access to vaccines, offers to pay money as an investment opportunity in the vaccine manufacturers, and fake surveys offering prizes and early access to vaccinations.

To avoid vaccination scams, don’t click on suspicious links from direct chat, emails or text messages and refrain from giving out personal and financial information to unexpected callers. COVID-19 vaccines are voluntary and free, so don’t pay for early access to vaccines or offers to be on a waiting list. 

Furthermore, be aware of how vaccines are distributed in your country and ignore any unreliable information. Scammers can impersonate agencies such as the World Health Organisation, so always source information about the pandemic independently from official websites.

2. PHISHING SCAMS

Scammers worldwide have been impersonating travel agents, telecommunications companies, and even government agencies to try and ‘phish’ your personal and financial data. They will usually ask for information such as your address, bank details, or even your PIN number.

Scammers will try to reach you through phone calls, text messages and emails that contain malicious links and attachments claiming to provide information on COVID-19. They may also offer to help you apply for financial assistance and payment for staying home, or seek payment for services and goods you did not purchase.

To protect yourself from these phishing scams, avoid clicking on hyperlinks even if they appear to be from a trusted source. Verify the legitimacy of contacts by finding them through phone books or online searches. And if you believe a scammer has called you, hang up immediately and contact your telco to seek assistance.

3. ONLINE SHOPPING SCAMS

Dozens of online stores selling fraudulent goods related to COVID-19 are being offered by scammers. These fake or non-existent products that are offered include home test kits, face masks, vaccinations, and even supposed cures.

It’s understandable why people fall for these websites as the latest technology is used to make them look as genuine as possible. Scammers may use sophisticated designs and layouts, possibly stolen logos, and even advertise on social media platforms. 

To prevent being scammed, take notice of whether the product on offer is advertised at an unbelievably low price, or has a list of unrealistic benefits. Additionally, if the retailer does not have adequate information about delivery and other policies or allow secure payment such as PayPal, they may be fake. Checking reviews before purchasing is the best way to detect an online shopping scam.

4. DONATION SCAMS

One of the most inhumane scams relating to the COVID-19 pandemic are online donation scams. These fraudsters will pose as genuine fundraisers and charities to elicit donations intended to support COVID-19 relief.

These scammers exploit the pandemic by posing as reputable-looking organisations, often choosing names that resemble well-known charities. They may also pose as people in need, saying things like how they are ill, stranded in another country, or are acting on the behalf of a friend or relative who needs financial aid.

Not only do these scammers divert donations from real causes, but also take advantage of people’s kindness during such a vulnerable time.  If you do wish to donate to COVID-19 relief, check for any information or media coverage that can assure the organisation’s validity. 

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, you have probably been using online services more than ever before. Scammers can more easily reach you over the phone, through social media, email or text messages, and fake websites. 

If you suspect that you’ve sent money to or shared your financial details with a scammer, contact your financial institution and they may be able to stop or reverse the transaction, or freeze your accounts.

Report to your local consumer protection agency if you suspect a scam, and if you have experienced a scam over social media such as Facebook or Instagram, report it to the platform.

Additionally, if you believe your device has been infected with malware, reset all your online passwords and invest in a security software.

We can do this!

Although COVID-19 presents its challenges, by being aware of these difficulties and staying connected online with our relatives and loved ones, we can make it easier for ourselves during these rough times.

Sources:

https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/current-covid-19-coronavirus-scams

https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/current-covid-19-coronavirus-scams/covid-19-vaccination-scams

https://www.kaspersky.com.au/resource-center/threats/coronavirus-charity-scams-how-to-protect-yourself

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Dealing with homesickness as a foreign worker

Moving to a new country can be the most thrilling adventure.

There are new places to discover, new people to meet, and new opportunities to explore. Yet, while working overseas certainly has its pros, sometimes, you might find yourself wishing for a little less new.

It’s completely natural to be homesick.

The disorientation of being in a foreign environment can make people feel an intense longing and grief for the familiarity of home.

Though it is a common experience, medical and psychological evidence shows that homesickness can create serious physical, cognitive and behavioural problems. Physical symptoms can include ‘gastric and intestinal pains, lack of sleep, headaches, feelings of tiredness’ and even eating disorders. As shown, homesickness is not something childish to be embarrassed by, but is a serious condition that is worth being addressed.

Although you may feel isolated and helpless living and working overseas, the first thing to understand is that you are not alone. Research published in the International Journal of Psychological studies showed that “all migrant workers and expatriates acknowledged going through [homesickness], despite the apparent joy of having the opportunity to further their professional experience and send remittances to relatives back home” (Hack-Polay, 2012). Homesickness is the proof that you have moved out of your comfort zone and should remind you of your courage.

Remember, no matter what your circumstance is, homesickness is almost always a temporary phase that can be overcome with a positive and healthy mindset. It’s normal to miss home and family, but with the right approach, you’ll be able to think of them with fondness rather than pain.

So, how do I deal with homesickness?

For some people with extreme homesickness, returning home may be the best choice. But it takes time to adjust to any unfamiliar situation, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re finding it particularly difficult. Every person is different, so what makes one person feel better might not do the same for another. However, there are some proven coping strategies that may help you deal with the grief of living away from home.

Get out there and socialise!

Although homesickness might make you want to hide away, there is a whole new exciting world out there just waiting for you to explore! Active interaction with your host country can keep your mind busy and focused on the present.

However, studies also show that increased contact with relatives and friends from home while exploring your new environment can create psychological balance. Using social networks to constantly keep in touch with relative and friends back home can help you as you make sense of your foreign lifestyle.

Additionally, integrating with community organisations that allow you to meet people from your own background can create a firm sense of solidarity. Being able to experience pieces of home in your host country—native cuisine, speaking your native language, celebrating your homeland’s holidays—can make your transition smoother.

Prepare yourself beforehand and seek assistance

Preparation is the best way to combat the initial culture shock that may lead to homesickness. Seeking out input from returnees and taking time to learn the language and culture of your host country can brace you for your move. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from people who have experienced what you are, or will be, going through.

Additionally, attending educational courses upon arrival can also greatly assist you during your transition. In a study of migrants who took formal courses in the UK, migrants were shown to benefit in ‘language acquisition, cultural awareness and socialisation’ as they were given ‘more opportunities to meet host country nationals and experience real-life interactions’ (Hack-Polay, 2012).

By educating yourself and being aware of your new surroundings, you can decrease the strain of your transition into a foreign place.

Stay positive and motivated!

Though you aren’t dealing with this alone, the key factor that will help with homesickness is your effort—nobody can do this but you. Without the drive to adjust to your host country, you will waste the prospects in front of you and be stuck wishing to go home.

It can be hard to see sometimes, but being overseas is an opportunity that should be taken full advantage of. When you find yourself thinking negatively about your situation, reflect upon why you moved to where you are now and why this is important. Remembering your purpose in your new environment will strengthen your self-worth and motivate you to embrace change.

Furthermore, put in daily effort to educate yourself of local cultures and practices by establishing a routine. In a study of homesickness by Professor Hack-Polay, participants stated that they would watch programmes on local TV stations, read books, and attend tourist events to advance cultural learning. As a result, they actively decreased the effects of their homesickness.

But remember, do enjoy the moment.

You’re allowed to feel sad and miss your family and friends back home; it’s part of the process of being home sick. Tale care of yourself and give yourself time to adjust to your surroundings. Discussing your feelings to your family rather than bottling up your emotions. This is vital in keeping a balanced mental state.

Though reminding yourself of home all the time may do more harm than good, crying if you need to from time to time can help you release your emotions. If you need to, talking to someone about how you are feeling can help you better understand yourself and your surroundings.

It isn’t easy to take such big steps in life. Although it may take time to adapt, missing home is completely natural and is nothing to be ashamed of. You should be immensely proud of the courage you had to leave home and move to a foreign place. With kindness, perseverance, and patience for yourself, you’ll soon be able to take full advantage of all this new adventure has to offer.

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