IT Pro

Free childcare scam aimed at intelligence staff

Intelligence agency employees have been the target of an unsophisticated online phishing scam, which used a website purporting to offer free childcare to government employees to extract sensitive personal data.

''Concinna Day Care Centre'' was claiming to be opening its government-funded centre ''within a couple of weeks'' but some farcical elements soon exposed the scam.

The web page for ''Concinna Day Care Centre''.
The web page for ''Concinna Day Care Centre''. 

Its website, which went online late last week, had a four-page application form asking for information not normally divulged to a childcare operator, including tax file numbers, Australian Government Service numbers and the sexual orientation of the parents. It also required a payslip and an official business card be provided.

Asking for enough information to steal multiple identities at once, the scheme targeted intelligence employees. The website's metadata - used to optimise search results - used the keywords ''defence employees'', ''asio employees'' and ''dsd employees''.

A doctored photograph.
A doctored photograph. 

In its privacy policy, the website said ''only employees of the Russell government facility locations'' were permitted to use the facility.

The Russell area notably includes the offices of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Defence Force.


The contact phone number on the website was previously listed to the Department of Defence.

The number was not connected, but the alternative phone number listed in the registration of the domain name connected to ASIO.

A spokesperson for ASIO said it had ''no affiliation'' with the childcare centre.

Within an hour of Fairfax Media contacting ASIO, the Concinna website, its Facebook and Twitter accounts and the Facebook page of its purported director ''Dr Columbine Presley Close'' were no longer available.

The hoax, which could have serious security implications, also had elements of farce. The website featured poorly-manipulated images and its Facebook page made a bizarre post in response to questions about why the free service was only for government employees.

''We prefer children from government workers rather than disadvantaged families because of the quality,'' the post said.

Rob Livingstone, a fellow at the University of Technology Sydney's faculty of engineering and information technology, said sending personal information to phoney organisations could have serious consequences, as it could be used to obtain false identification documents such as drivers' licences.

''Identity theft is a very serious matter, especially if the identity has been stolen and been used for criminal or other acts where the person may end up … being implicated in fraud,'' Mr Livingstone said.

A police spokesperson said anyone who may have divulged information in the scam should contact their local station, and encouraged people to exercise common sense.

''If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,'' the spokesperson said.

ACT Minister for Education and Training Joy Burch said families should check the federal government's MyChild website, as it listed all registered early education and care service providers.

''I would encourage all families to do their homework to ensure that they find the right childcare for them, including arranging to visit a centre and talk to staff.''

Suspected scams should be reported to SCAMwatch, or 1300 795 995.


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