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Free childcare scam aimed at intelligence staff

Date

Fleta Page and Peter Jean

A childcare website with dodgy Photoshopping, purporting to have free childcare for government workers.

A childcare website with dodgy Photoshopping, purporting to have free childcare for government workers.

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.

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.

A childcare website with dodgy Photoshopping, purporting to have free childcare for government workers.

A childcare website with dodgy Photoshopping, purporting to have free childcare for government workers.

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''.

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.

childcare

childcare

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, scamwatch.gov.au or 1300 795 995.

7 comments

  • I know someone who fell for the same scam THREE times! I desperately tried to show him it was a scam but he chose not to listen.

    Commenter
    True Fan
    Date and time
    April 16, 2013, 11:30AM
    • That's when you report it to authorities as it's a security risk.

      Commenter
      blackMORE
      Date and time
      April 16, 2013, 12:14PM
    • Ha ha ha ha.... was he from an 'Intelligence Agency'

      Commenter
      Deutsch
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 16, 2013, 12:32PM
    • @ Deutsch no he wasn't but he was well educated and generally street wise. I was shocked when he went ahead and sent off the money.

      Commenter
      True Fan
      Date and time
      April 16, 2013, 1:05PM
    • There's an element of 'saving face' in that story. He probably didn't want to admit he was wrong. He probably has self confidence issues.

      Commenter
      Dabug
      Date and time
      April 16, 2013, 10:51PM
  • I think they're on facebook. A woman made a comment on ABC or similar, asking how to get customers for her "free" childcare centre.

    Commenter
    Z
    Date and time
    April 16, 2013, 1:05PM
    • Chinese hackers! No! North Korea! Ruskies!.... Anonymous!

      It's definately the marketing team for the NBN. They won't even need your forms, they can just Hoover it all up from your daily browsing. The Great Dossier begins.

      The Stasi, that's the mob.

      Commenter
      Evanism
      Date and time
      April 16, 2013, 3:44PM
      Comments are now closed
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