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CommBank warns customers to ignore 'refund' phone calls

The Commonwealth Bank and Australia's competition watchdog are warning consumers to disregard unsolicited phone calls purporting to be from the bank.

Over the past few days, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received reports of scam phone calls asking for residents by name, then pretending to be a representative of the bank soliciting account information in order to ''refund overcharged fees'' or other amounts.

The Commonwealth Bank says it does not contact customers to ''refund fees'' as scam claims.
The Commonwealth Bank says it does not contact customers to ''refund fees'' as scam claims. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

ACCC deputy chair, Delia Rickard, told Fairfax Media one sophisticated variation of the scam involves an automated call asking for a person by name then telling them to expect a call from the ''Department of Fair Trading'' the next day for a refund to be processed. The second caller then requests bank account or credit card details to debit a ''processing fee'' and to refund money. No refunds ever arrive.

''This appears to be an advance fee or phishing fraud scheme,'' Ms Rickard said. She believed it to be a variation of the Qantas advance fee scam, which pretends to award flights or frequent-flyer points as prizes in order to obtain funds.

Readers who have contacted Fairfax Media reported receiving repeated automated phones calls, up to four times a day.

''If you get an automated call from the Commonwealth Bank or Qantas, hang up. That is not how they do business,'' Ms Rickard said.

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Another reader reported receiving multiple non-automated phone calls over several days. Each time she argued with the caller over claims of overcharged fees. 

Ms Rickard said email phishing and phone scams were getting more sophisticated. Consumers should always initiate their own enquiries, using their bank's central phone number or website, and never use a phone number or contact details provided by such callers.

''They are very clever. They do a great job of imitating logos, speaking the jargon, pretending to be from a company.''

A spokeswoman from the bank said any unsolicited approaches should be ignored.

''If a customer receives a call, SMS or voice automation message, claiming to represent the Commonwealth Bank and requesting personal information, they should contact the bank’s customer service number on 13 22 21,'' she said.

The ACCC received 27,000 advance fee fraud complaints last year, leading to $30 million in reported losses for scam victims. Phishing and ID fraud comprised 9000 complaints and an estimated $1.5 million in losses.

The agency maintains a website – scamwatch.gov.au – with information on new scams.

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