Fake debt collectors

29 May 2015

Scamwatch is warning of phone calls from scammers claiming to collect debts.

Recently scammers have been cold calling, claiming to be from energy providers, telecommunication providers or even government departments. Scamwatch have received reports of these phone calls demanding payments for overdue accounts and using the threat of disconnection to try to convince people to pay. These calls are targeting both individuals and businesses.

On some occasions it has been reported that the caller was from Centrelink and that pension payments would be stopped unless the debt was paid. Other examples include threats of arrest or court action for unpaid fines or bills or the threat of disconnection to essential services. What appears to be common to all these scams is the use of threats to create a sense of urgency so the recipient of the call doesn’t have the time to check the authenticity of the demand.

If you receive any phone calls claiming you owe money for your energy or phone bill you should investigate this independently. You should call your provider using the phone number found on your bills or on their website. Do not provide any personal or financial details over the phone.

How these scams work

  • You receive an unexpected phone call from a person claiming you owe money for your phone or energy bill.
  • The phone numbers they use will appear local but this doesn’t make the demand any more legitimate.
  • The caller may be very threatening saying that if you do not pay you will be disconnected, receive a fine or your government benefits will cease.
  • The scammer will provide some bank account details that they want you to pay to or ask you to pay by wire transfer.

Protect yourself

  • If you receive a phone call asking to pay an overdue account, check its legitimacy by contacting your supplier using telephone numbers you know from bills you have received, the phone book or that you have found independently from an 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.
  • Do not send money via a wire transfer to pay a bill.

Report

You can report scams to the ACCC via the SCAMwatch report a scam page.

More information

See the Western Australia Department of Commerce media release: Pensioner loses $15000 to phone-scam

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter.

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