Scammers continue to impersonate government officials

31 October 2012

SCAMwatch is warning consumers to remain vigilant against scammers impersonating government officials with false claims of owed money.

In the latest twist on this type of scam, fraudsters have been calling individuals claiming to be from the Australian Treasury – including the Treasury Reclamations Section – and offering to recover overpaid bank fees in return for a ‘processing fee’.

The Treasury does not recover or process money for individuals.

If you receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be a government official and that you are entitled to reclaim money in exchange for a fee, just hang up.

How these scams work

  • You receive a call or email out of the blue from someone claiming to be a government official. Common agencies or departments that scammers target are the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Climate Change and Treasury. Scammers even claim to be from fictitious departments such as the ‘Australian Government Grants Department’.
  • The scammer claims that you are entitled to a refund or compensation for overpaid taxes, bank fees or rebates. To make it appear legitimate, the scammer may claim that the money you are owed is connected to topical issues or government programs, for example carbon price compensation, solar panels or natural disasters. 
  • You may even be directed to fake websites dressed up to look like official government sites.
  • In order to receive your money, the scammer claims that you have to pay money upfront to cover administration fees or taxes.
  • The scammer will typically ask you to send the money via a money transfer service.
  • You may also be asked to provide personal or financial details.
  • If you pay, you will never see your money again.

Protect yourself

  • If you receive a phone call or email out of the blue from someone claiming to be a government official and that you are entitled to a refund or compensation, simply delete the email or just hang up.
  • If you’re not sure whether a call or email is a scam, verify who they are by using their official contact details to call them directly. Never use contact details provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • The Australian Government website www.australia.gov.au is a safe portal for finding government services.
  • Never send money or give your financial details to someone you don’t trust - it’s rare to recover money from a scammer.
  • If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

Report

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

More information

The Treasury has also issued an alert about this latest scam.

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov

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