Threats to life, arrest or other

Threats to life, arrest or other involve demands by scammers to pay money that you supposedly owe and threats if you do not cooperate.

How this scam works

These scams use threats designed to frighten you into handing over your money, and can even include threats to your life.

The scammer may call you and pressure you into paying immediately,  threaten you with arrest, or say they will send the police to your house if you refuse. Scammers will also send emails claiming you owe money for things like a speeding fine, tax office debt or unpaid bill.

Scammers have been known to target vulnerable people, such as the elderly and newly arrived migrants. They will often impersonate government officials from agencies such as the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Department of Human Services or Centrelink, and the Australian Federal Police. Scammers will tell you that there are problems with your immigration papers or visa status, and threaten deportation unless fees are paid to correct the errors.  

In a similar scam, victims will be contacted over the phone by a scammer pretending to be from the Australian Tax Office (ATO). The scammer will ask for payment of an outstanding tax debt and threaten arrest or legal action if you do not comply. Scammers may also pretend to be from trusted organisations, including energy or telecommunications providers, Australia Post, banks and law enforcement agencies. They may use  email to send fake invoices or fines, and threaten to cancel your service or charge you excessive penalty fees if you don’t pay the bill immediately.

If the scam is sent by email, it is likely to include an attachment or link to a fake website where you will be asked to download proof of the ‘bill’, ‘fine’ or ‘delivery details’. Opening the attachment or downloading the file could infect your computer with malware.

The scam is designed to scare you into handing over your money without seeking any further assistance or information.

Warning signs

  • You receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government department, debt collection agency or trusted company.

  • You may be left a message on your answering machine asking you to ring a number.

  • The caller will claim that you have issues with your immigration forms or visa status.

  • The caller will tell you that in order to resolve the matter you will need to pay a fee or fine.

  • The caller may ask for your personal information such as your passport details, date of birth or bank information.

  • The caller may claim the police will come to your door and arrest you if you do not pay the fee or fine immediately.

Protect yourself

  • Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller. Stop, think and check whether their story is true.

  • A government agency or trusted company will never ask you to pay by unusual methods such as by gift or store cards, iTunes vouchers, wire transfers or Bitcoins.

  • If you receive a phone call from someone threatening you and asking you to pay a fee, hang up and do not respond.

  • Don’t use any contact details provided by the caller. Verify their identity by calling the relevant organisation directly—find them through an independent source such as a phone book, past bill or online search.

  • Do not respond to texts or emails. If you do, the scammers will escalate their intimidation and attempts to get your money.

  • Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email or over the phone.

  • If you are concerned for your safety, contact the police.

Have you been scammed?

If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

We also provide guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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