ACT News


National watchdog warns of fake Department of Human Services scams

Australia's consumer watchdog has raised concerns about phone scammers pretending to call from the Department of Human Services and Centrelink.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard said the scammers were attempting to trick consumers into handing over their personal details and money.

"The ACCC has received a spike in contacts about fake rebate scams in which the scammer claims to be from Centrelink or the Department of Human Services," she said.

One hundred people contacted the ACCC about this scam last month, compared with 20 reports in May. Four people have reported losing over $3000 to the scam in the past six months, with 300 contacts in that time.

The scammers are reportedly assuring consumers they are entitled to more money but must provide their personal details to prove their identity.

The scammers then ask consumers to send money via a wire transfer service to pay a fee, warning their Centrelink payments may be cut off if they do not comply.


"If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a government department and they claim that you are entitled to money, hang up," Ms Rickard said.

"If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a business, organisation or government department, contact the body directly.

"Don't rely on numbers, email addresses or websites provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search."

The ACCC has warned consumers it is "nearly impossible" to recover money sent to scammers by wire transfer services.

In some cases, the scammers may use bank details to steal money directly or commit identity fraud at a later stage.

"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," Ms Rickard said.

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

Fraudsters robbed unsuspecting Australians of $81.8 million in 12 months with the national consumer watchdog warning the figure could be even higher.

Unsolicited phone calls and text messages continued to be a favoured strategy for scammers, although more than half of the $81 million forfeited was done so online.

Dating and romance scams cost Australians almost $28 million last financial year, with 2669 warnings issued to potential victims in NSW and the ACT.

The latest Australian Competition and Consumer Commission annual report found 916,137 scams were reported by consumers and small businesses.

"Scams and associated losses are likely to be under-reported to the ACCC because victims may report to other authorities, may be unwilling to report their experience, or may not even realise they have been scammed," the report said.

The Commission warned identity fraud has become one of the most common crimes in Australia and has an estimated economic impact of $1.6 billion every year.

According to the commission, the number of dating scams has increased in recent years with efforts now being made to warn consumers in the lead-up to Valentine's Day.