In February the ACCC received a spike in contacts about fake rebate schemes so we are warning people to be aware of calls from a fake government department claiming you are owed money.
Scammers have recently been calling Australians offering them a cheque worth $7000 or more claiming to be from the ‘Department of Finance’ or other government organisation such as the ‘Office of State Revenue’. The scammer will demand an upfront payment and various pieces of personal information before the money can be provided. However, there is no money and no connection with any state or commonwealth department.
The scammers may spin a range of stories about why you are owed money to make their story sound real. They might claim that there is money due because of a tax refund, Centrelink payment, bank fee rebate, one-off payment, investment return or even a bonus. Whatever the story, these scams always involve some government department or organisation claiming you are owed money but you need to pay a fee in order to collect it.
Scammers typically ask for money to be sent via wire transfer as it’s nearly impossible to recover money sent this way. They may also ask for people’s financial and other personal details to access their money and use this information to commit other scams.
Be on guard – if you receive a phone call from someone saying you are owed money and they then ask you for your personal or banking details or to pay a fee, hang up – the person on the other end may be a scammer. If in doubt, look up the government department or organisation yourself and phone them.
How these scams work
- You receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government department.
- The caller or sender will claim that you are owed money for some reason.
- In order to receive the refund/payment you have to pay an administration fee or other fee upfront.
- The caller may tell you that you need to contact their supervisor with a reference number that they provide you in order to make the payment or they might ask you to pay straight away.
- Alternatively, you may be asked to provide your bank account details or other personal information so they can deposit the refund in your account.
- If you send any money via wire transfer, you will never see it again – it’s nearly impossible to recover money sent this way. You will also never receive the promised rebate or refund.
- If you provide your bank account details or other personal information, the scammer may use it to commit identity theft or to steal your money.
- If you receive a phone call or email out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government department and they claim that you are entitled to money, hang up.
- If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a business, organisation or government department, contact the body directly. Don’t rely on numbers, email addresses or websites provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
- Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source. If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the SCAMwatch report a scam page.
If the scammer has posed as a legitimate government department or company, you should also report the incident to them.
Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.