Scammers claiming to be from Centrelink are stepping up their assault on pensioners, telling them they are eligible for an increase in benefits, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said there have been more than 2,200 reports of the scam since January, with more than $27,000 reported lost.
This was up from $3,500 reported lost in 2015 when there were 560 contacts.
“If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the Department of Human Services or Centrelink claiming that you are eligible for an increase in your pension or benefit - hang up,” she said.
“The scammer will claim that you’ve been sent a letter about an increase in your benefits and not responded to it.
“They will then claim that your file has been sent to Canberra and that you can either go to Canberra to fill out the required form or you can pay a fee and have the forms sent to you.
“The scammer’s main objective is to get your money and they usually ask for payment via wire money transfer or iTunes cards. To push you into paying this money, the scammer might threaten that you will not receive any further benefits until the situation is resolved,” Ms Rickard said.
“The Department of Human Services will never ask you to deposit money in order to receive a payment. 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.”
The ACCC advises people to protect themselves with the following measures:
- 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 sources 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.
The Australian Tax Office is also warning older people to be wary of phone calls, emails, faxes and SMS claiming to be from the ATO.
These could be scammers trying to steal either money or personal information.
The ATO said it would never:
- Ask for money to receive a refund or payment from the ATO or Centrelink
- Demand payment of a debt using a prepaid credit card or gift card, such as iTunes, or into a personal bank account
- Ask for personal information, such as a bank account or credit card number, via email or SMS
- Demand a Tax File Number (TFN) over the phone
- Threaten a person with immediate arrest