Centrelink dedicates helpline to financial scam victims

A new helpline for Centrelink welfare recipients will help thwart scams.

Pensioners preyed on by scammers posing as Centrelink staff will now be able to call a dedicated helpline for assistance.

The Department of Human Services says the helpline number is 1800 941 126. It is open only to Centrelink clients who are currently receiving welfare payments.

YourLifeChoices rang the number and was able to get through straight after a brief recording explaining the purpose of the helpline.

The helpline operator said the assistance available did not include attempts to retrieve any money lost to scammers.

Rather, its purpose was to collate data and create awareness of which scams were trapping Centrelink payment recipients.

Callers can remain anonymous if they wish. If they do so, they may be asked to provide a postcode or age range, but there is no obligation to do so, the operator told YourLifeChoices.

The service can point victims to resources where they may be able to get further help, such as Scamwatch, which is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and cyber support service IDCARE, which helps victims who believe their identity has been fraudulently stolen.

“Scammers use many tactics to extract money or personal information from unsuspecting victims, and impersonating Centrelink’s employees is one method that is sadly becoming more common,” the department said.

More than 1270 calls have been received by the department in the past six months from people who had either lost money or had passed on sensitive personal information that might be used to steal their identity.

“The new helpline is there to provide advice and assistance to clients on what steps they need to take next to protect themselves from further financial loss. That can include increasing the security and identity verification settings around their Centrelink accounts, or referring them to external agencies which specialise in assisting scam victims.”

The launch of the helpline coincides with Scams Awareness Week and serves to remind all welfare recipients about the need to remain vigilant when contacted by people asking for money or for personal information, such as bank account details, the department said.

Last year, Scamwatch received almost 33,000 reports of threat-based impersonation scams in which callers claimed to be from a variety of government departments.

Many reports were merely to alert the service that a scammer had been in touch. But for 2800 of the victims who rang Scamwatch, they had belatedly realised that had given their personal information to a scammer.

More than $4.7 million was reported lost to fraudulent schemes in 2017, the department said.

Scammers can make their moves by phoning, emailing and texting or even by contact through social media accounts.

“One current Centrelink-related scam involves a caller who claims to work for the agency and is seeking to recover a debt,” the department said.

“The caller is aggressive and tells the victim that their benefit will be cut off within days if they do not pay up.

“Pension recipient Rosa was a victim of the scam. She was told she needed to pay a $300 penalty and would lose her pension if she did not pay. The scammer then convinced Rosa to buy $300 worth of iTunes gift cards and rang her back the next day to get the electronic codes required to redeem them online.”

For more information on protecting yourself from scams or to report a scam, visit the Scamwatch website or join the conversation online by following #ScamsWeek18 on Twitter.

For more information about scams and how to avoid them, people can also visit humanservices.gov.au.

Have you ever been contacted by a scammer? If so, tell us what information the scammer asked for? Have you lost money or your identity in a scam? If so, what was the value of your loss?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Old Geezer
    25th May 2018
    Sounds like a loophole for one grandkids to scam them so they have less assets and can get the OAP to me.

    25th May 2018
    Very cynical, OG! Is there a red under every bed, also?
    Old Geezer
    25th May 2018
    I can't think of a better way of getting rid of assets than being scammed by your grandkids with iTunes card.
    25th May 2018
    Worried about you OG, were you on the grassy knoll near the book repository in Dallas in November 1963?
    25th May 2018
    There's a new scam that's recently started. Two scantily dressed girls are targeting old men. The come to your house and one girl has wild, passionate sex with you while the other steals your wallet. I fell for it four times last week and three times already this week. It's costing me a fortune in new wallets......
    25th May 2018
    Ha ha a bit of humour is good. Thanks for this!

    25th May 2018
    Waste of money
    All of centerlink should be outsourced
    Old Geezer
    25th May 2018
    This should be outsourced to the Federal police.
    25th May 2018
    Outsourcing Centrelink will make it even worse. Privatization is a disaster, as we have already seen umpteen times. There was talk of getting Serco involved, ye Gods!
    25th May 2018
    Only welfare recipients can call and you can be anonymous??

    25th May 2018
    Good luck with that. Because of the scumbag Lieberals' funding cuts to Centrestink, you'll wait at least an hour on the phone before you actually get through to somebody (having endured the 'press this, press that' rubbish routine), only to speak to somebody who hasn't a clue - because 'the rules' keep changing and they're grossly understaffed.
    25th May 2018
    Slightly off-topic, but we are talking scammers.

    I had a couple of new ones today, about an hour ago.

    The first was a “Private” number call, from the “Do Not Call Register”. The scammer’s method was to “empathise” with me regarding nuisance calls, then offer to block all such calls by signing me up… surprise, surprise, they need personal details and - we didn’t get that far, but I later checked with Google - financial details. I said - not all that politely I must admit - that I didn’t believe he was who he said he was, I was already on the DNC register which provided a free service, and that he should get a real job instead of trying to scam people.

    He called me a “fool” and a “dickhead” - which sounds funny in a foreign accent. I told him to keep it up, keep up the language, get it out of his system, that he’ll soon feel so much better… and then go and get a real job.

    The second call, only 10 minutes later, although from a different number (07 area code), was from the same lot of scammers. This call was much shorter… and less polite.
    25th May 2018
    Why are scammers immune from the law? They seem to have no trouble finding someone who has downloaded porn but somehow cannot trace a scammer who leaves a calling card (the address to send your money to). I have watched Current Affairs and seen a scammer, this time one who was so called fixing rooves, and although caught on camera the scammer walked away. At other times I have seen scammers retreating into their mansions which was probably bought with their scamming loot and there they can call for the protection of the police which appears to be denied to those who are scammed.

    25th May 2018
    This service is only useful if someone gets a threat from a scammer purporting to be from Centrelink, and wants to check the validity of that call - this is something which should be part of normal business for Centrelink, although a helpline for a quick contact is useful.

    Other than that, there should be no duplication of services from the Govt, and people should contact Scamwatch (ACCC). Centrelink should not waste it's scarce resources on expanding it's services - wonder if Serco wants to add a new line of business?

    Of course, even Scamwatch is a failure as it does not pursue scammers, and simply acts as a reporting agency collecting information and producing statistical reports - what a hopeless agency, hence we don't want yet another Govt agency mimicking that kind of useless waste of effort spending taxpayer's money.
    25th May 2018
    It is the police that I think should be involved. Scamming is criminal and that is what our police are there for, to fight crime just as they react to burglaries, shop lifting, assaults etc. Where the crime is perpetrated from overseas then international police should become involved. The internet is international and has become extremely important for world trade so it is time that it is policed internationally. Normally we are told that we are not allowed to take the law into our own hands but in the case of scammers we are advised and expected to take them to court and if we win we might get our money back but forget about costs. Scamming has become a cancer in our electronic world and must be destroyed before it ruins this fabulous system.
    25th May 2018
    The is not more crime & scammed system as is in all Centrelink & Minister Keenan office the is crime against all International law U.N. The minister fabricate confidential documents Dr.Medical records & the Human Services lie and fabricate legal documents evidence to A.A.T.
    25th May 2018
    Sorry I do not understand what you are saying

    25th May 2018
    Anyone who receives welfare are fair game for scammers as they are already losers.
    26th May 2018
    This government spends a great deal on the less well off and those who have fallen through the gaps
    This service is another program to help these folk
    26th May 2018
    Scammers are thieves and it is time the law recognised this. Scamming is big business. Virtually anyone who is connected to the internet has received a scam invitation. Most don't fall for them but unfortunately a few get caught. Surely it is time for authorities to put heavy penalties on these perpetrators. Instead of trying to turn law abiders into criminals for going a few kilometres over the speed limit, go after the real criminals.

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