An increasing number of Australians are being scammed by fraudsters pretending to be from the Department of Human Services or Centrelink.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch has received more than 2,200 reports since January of people being contacted and told their pension or benefits have increased and then asked to pay a fee to be sent a form to complete or travel to Canberra.
So far more than $27,000 has been reported lost and four people have lost $1000 or more. It is a big jump from 2015, when only $3,500 was reported lost and 560 people said they had been contacted.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says it works like this:
“The scammer will claim that you’ve been sent a letter about an increase in your benefits and not responded to it,” Ms Rickard said. “They will then claim that your file has been sent to Canberra and that you can either go to Canberra to fill out the required form or you can pay a fee and have the forms sent to you.”
She said the scammer’s main objective was to get your money. They usually ask for payment via wire money transfer or iTunes cards.
“To push you into paying this money, the scammer might threaten that you will not receive any further benefits until the situation is resolved,” she said.
The ACCC warned that if you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the Department of Human Services or Centrelink and they say you are eligible for an increase in your pension or benefit you should hang up.
Ms Rickard said: “The Department of Human Services will never ask you to deposit money in order to receive a payment. If in doubt, don’t use any contact details provided by the caller. Look up the government department or organisation yourself in the phone book or online, and phone or email them.”
The Commission has issued a list of steps you should take when dealing with potential fraudsters.
- If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from Centrelink and offering an increase in benefits, hang up.
- If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a government department, contact the department directly using independently-sourced details
- Never give your personal or financial details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source
- Any requests to send money via a gift card (such as iTunes) should be treated as highly suspicious as they are not considered a legitimate source of payment
- Never send any money via wire transfer or any other means to anyone you do not know or trust
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