A frightening new Centrelink scam is catching out unsuspecting Aussies who just want to do the right thing.
Services Australia is warning that many Centrelink recipients are receiving scam phone calls claiming to be from its legal department.
The caller claims the recipient owes a debt and they need to pay immediately or risk jail time.
The scammers have been asking victims to make payments through a bank transfer, gift cards and even cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
Services Australia says asking for these types of alternative payment methods is a good indicator the call is not legitimate.
“If you’ve been overpaid and have a debt, we will sometimes call or text to let you know,” Services Australia confirmed.
“However, we’ll always write to you by post or your myGov inbox to let you know about your debt. If you’re not sure if a call about a debt is legitimate, phone us on your regular payment line to check. “
Remember also that Services Australia would never threaten to arrest or jail someone. If matters really had progressed to that stage, you would be dealing with the police in person.
If you receive a call like this, your best course of action is to hang up immediately. Don’t return the call and if they do manage to speak to you, don’t reveal any personal details.
“Scams can be hard to pick,” says Services Australia.
“If you’re worried you’ve given personal details to a scammer, we can help. You should call or email the Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk straight away if you’re concerned about a call you’ve received.”
News of the scam comes after Australians lost more than $2 billion to scams in 2021, the highest tally on record, according to a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The ACCC says people aged 65 and over reported the highest losses of any age group, and that losses increased steadily with age.
“Scam activity continues to increase, and last year a record number of Australians lost a record amount of money,” says Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the ACCC.
“The true cost of scams is more than a dollar figure as they also cause serious emotional harm to individuals, families, and businesses.”
The ACCC report also showed just how prevalent scams are in the community. More than 95 per cent of respondents said they had been exposed to scammers in the past five years, with around 20 per cent actually falling victim.
Of those who lost money, 56 per cent were unable to recover any of it.
So, if you receive a phone call from Centrelink that you’re not quite sure about – hang up, don’t engage the caller and contact Centrelink immediately.
Have you received this suspicious phone call? What other scams have you come across? Let us know in the comments section below.
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