SCAMwatch is warning Australians to be wary of websites that appear official but fail to deliver on promises to provide birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates in return for a fee.
How the scam works
- You visit a website which falsely claims to provide fast and reliable birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates. In reality these websites cannot directly provide certificates as they are only available through official Government registries.
- Website may look genuine and use images such as Australian flags, altered copies of Government crests and logos, pictures of Australian landmarks and links to genuine Government websites.
- Whilst you may think you’re paying for a certificate, you are actually paying for information, forms and/or web links which are freely available from official Government websites. In some cases you may receive nothing at all.
- Scam websites commonly ask for personal and financial details such as your credit card number. Providing your credit card and personal details to scammers can lead to identity theft and credit card fraud.
- The sites may provide a shopping cart or payment gateway which they claim is secure but is actually unsecure and unencrypted.
- Some sites may subscribe you to ongoing payments which you weren’t aware of.
- If you want to use a third party service when applying for certificates, make sure you research the provider first, look online for reviews written by other consumers and read all the terms and conditions on their website.
- The Australian Government website www.australia.gov.au is a safe portal for finding government services, and will help to avoid unauthorised third party providers.
- Remember that official Government registries may charge a fee for certificates but will not charge for information and forms provided freely on their website or at their customer service centres.
- Be alert to imitation websites which misuse logos, trust marks and seals of approval also check the web address thoroughly as most Australian, state and territory government websites use the '.gov.au' extension – never .org, .net or .com.
- Never enter your personal, credit card or banking details on a website unless you have checked it is authentic and secure. Legitimate websites which ask you to enter sensitive personal details are commonly encrypted to protect your details.
- This is usually identified by the use of “https:” rather than “http:” at the start of the internet address.
- This can also be identified by a closed or unbroken key icon at the bottom right corner of your browser window.
- If these are missing or there is an open padlock or broken key icon, the website is not secure and could be a scam site.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.
For official birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates, visit your relevant State or Territory registries: Australian Birth, Death & Marriages Registries.
Check out our ‘Pharming’ scams page which deals with similar approaches.
SCAMwatch has also issued previous radars and a media release on scams which impersonate government:
- September 2011: Beware of scam websites making fake claims of government affiliation
- September 2011: International internet sweep targets websites with false sponsorships - ACCC media release
Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.