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Beware of phone calls from scammers claiming to be from Centrelink

Priority Level: 
29 November 2016

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning people to hang up on malicious callers pretending to be from Centrelink or the Department of Human Services.

These fake callers typically claim the recipient is eligible for an increase in their pension or benefits, but must either visit Canberra to fill out a form or pay a fee to have the form sent to them.

The callers typically ask for payment via wire transfer or iTunes cards. ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard says: "To push you into paying this money, the scammer might threaten that you will not receive any further benefits until the situation is resolved."

The ACCC said its Scamwatch service had received more than 2,200 reports of the scam since January, with more than $27,000 reported lost. Four individuals had reported losses of $1,000 or more each. This is a significant increase from 2015, where the reported loss was $3,500 from 560 contacts. 

"The Department of Human Services will never ask you to deposit money in order to receive a payment," Ms Rickard adds. "If in doubt, don't use any contact details provided by the caller. Look up the government department or organisation yourself in the phone book or online, and phone or email them."

Stay Smart Online recommends that you never provide financial or personal details in response to unsolicited calls, emails or other contacts.

Protect yourself

The ACCC provides the following advice to help protect people against being scammed:

  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from Centrelink and offering an increase in benefits, hang up.
  • If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a government department, contact the¬†department directly using independently sourced details.
  • Never give your personal or financial details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
  • Any requests to send money via a gift card (such as iTunes) should be treated as highly suspicious as they are not considered a legitimate source of payment.
  • Never send any money via wire transfer or any other means to anyone you do not know or trust.

More information

Stay Smart Online has further information on protecting yourself against scams.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.