ACCC warns older Australians of fake billing scams

ACCC warns of cleverly disguised scammers demanding payments.

ACCC warns older Australians of fake billing scams

Fake billing scams are on the rise, says the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), warning Australians of scammers who are impersonating energy and telecommunications providers and demanding payments.

In the last year, the ACCC’s Scamwatch service has received 5000 reports of scams cleverly disguised as large utilities and service providers.

“The scammers typically impersonate well-known companies such as Origin, AGL, Telstra and Optus via email, to fool people into assuming the bills are real,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

“They send bulk emails or letters which include a logo and design features closely copied from the genuine provider. The bill states that the account is overdue and if not paid immediately the customer will incur late charges or be disconnected.

“Alternatively, the bill may claim that the customer has overpaid and is owed a refund, or it may simply say the bill is due and ready to pay.”

New South Wales is the top targeted state, or has at least reported most instances of this scam, followed by Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia. The ACT, Tasmania and Northern Territory reported far fewer incidents.

Australians over 65 years of age make up the bulk of these reported cases.

“Older Australians should particularly be wary of emails pretending to be from utility companies, with people over 65 reporting the most fake utility billing scam incidents,” said Ms Rickard.

“I advise consumers to contact their communications or energy provider directly via the company’s official channels to verify that the email or letter is actually from them.

“Customers should never use the contact details provided on the suspicious email or letter but instead use an independent source to locate contact details such as a past bill or the phone book.

The scam could also take on the form of a fake Telstra bill in the mail, saying that your account is overdue and that immediate payment is required.

This was how it went for one reported case. The customer dialled the phone number provided and was asked for his date of birth and driver’s licence number to confirm his identity.

“If customers are duped into phoning scammers they will then attempt to steal as much personal information as they can.”

Other tips from the ACCC on how consumers can protect themselves

  • If you receive a bill outside of your normal billing cycle, or don’t expect to receive an overdue notice, call your provider to check whether it is legitimate.
  • If you are not a customer of the company simply delete the email.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in an email from an unverified sender – they may contain a malicious virus.
  • Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust, and never by email or over the phone.
  • Keep your computer secure – always update your firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and only buy from a verified source.

Have you received anything along these lines? If so, report it to Scamwatch immediately.



    To make a comment, please register or login

    25th Apr 2018
    Got an email from CBA saying that the my mobile app had changed and to click link below to install the new one. It looked genuine but my device said I had installed latest app so I ignored it.

    It was a scam.

    Most banks now have all the scams on their websites.
    25th Apr 2018
    If you avoided "apps" on your phone (just using it to talk to people) and did all your computing on your computer, you might be safer.

    25th Apr 2018
    Most of the scams I receive are by phone and I think that is because I still have a landline and my address is in the phone book. Some from the "ATO" offering me tax refunds from a few years ago. Two of them threatened me with police action to collect tax monies owed unless I paid $500 in itune cards. Do not know how that works, but later on I saw an elderly lady (my age) buying $400 worth of those cards and nothing else at Coles. Possibly another victim, should have said something but these days one no longer interferes!
    Magic Touch
    25th Apr 2018
    Today scams are all over like the one don,t trow away your old battery you can fix it. It a ebook scam.
    The smartbox power that power up your whole house is another ebook scam.
    Got an email say that you had won a prize this are all scam.
    To know the phone call is genuine it,s ask the caller name (may I know who I am speaking with)
    Then ask for the phone number and tell them I am in the middle of something I were call you back in half hour time
    After that use another line to call up the number from the web side not the number they give you and ask for that person.
    25th Apr 2018
    I have had two requests (supposedly from Paypal) to update my bank account details. I forwarded these on to Paypal but got no response?
    25th Apr 2018
    Bes - watch your accounts closely, someone might have your details in order to defraud you.
    25th Apr 2018
    I often get phone calls from people of sub-continental persuasion who claim to be from Telstra and that my internet connection is causing faults. I always ask them from what location they are calling from and am told that it is Telstra HQ at 242 Exhibition Street Melbourne 3000. I then ask them as Telstra HQ is on a corner of Exhibition Street what is the other street name. They cannot say and continually ask me why I want to know. Checking your bonafides I say and as you cannot answer that question you are obviously a Scammer. I have been called many names, the latest being a mother #%&*@r. It is Lonsdale Street if you ever want to use this but eventually they may find that out so try asking what the name of the hotel is that is opposite.
    Nan Norma
    25th Apr 2018
    I get these. I tell them I don't have a computer. They hang up.
    Magic Touch
    25th Apr 2018
    CB Jim you are right I had a problem with paypal last time. It happen with someone put money 500 dollars into my paypal account for a few days than the 500 dollars it,s taken out to another account. After that paypal ask me to return the 500 dollars back to the person who put money into my account. Than I said give them back it,s not my money. You know why paypal draw 500 dollars from my bank account and give it to the someone who put money into my paypal account because my paypal account had no money. And I had keep chasing paypal back for that 500 dollars because the 500 dollars it,s already taken after a few days to anothet account. You see paypal did not take the 500 dollars from the other account but from my bank account. So I had to keep chasing and keep explaining untail paypal know what it,s happening in order to get my money back. Now I had to be very careful with paypal.
    25th Apr 2018
    If an email, check the email address of the sender of the bill - if it's a scam it usually comes from some odd-sounding name that has some portion of the name of the company buried in it. Fortunately I have an answer machine on my phone and can hear who it is ringing me - a scammer usually just hangs up without leaving a message.
    25th Apr 2018
    I agree, answering machine invaluable, also stops sales persons
    25th Apr 2018
    And there is very good reason to demand always a mailed paper invoice and only pay on the usual invoices. Any invoice that is of an unusual amount should be checked carefully.
    The ATO will never make demands for payment over the telephone. Nor will any other Government Department.
    26th Apr 2018
    I had to a very serious issue.
    We were disconnected by for 2 months. By Optus. I question who the scammer was and could come up with only one answer: Optus.
    Good luck to anyone who uses this ISP. Oh yes...we had 10 years worth of ok service but that made no difference when Optus made the mistake and we paid for it.
    Ok, on a hobby horse. Apologies.
    26th Apr 2018
    We had 7 phone calls in one day telling us they were from Teltstra and that something was wrong with our internet and urgently needed fixing. No matter how many times we told them it was a scam, they kept ringing. So, on the seventh call, I decided to listen to what they wanted, though it was very hard to understand their accents given they were in some Indian call centre, or similar.
    Seems the idea is that you type an address your browser so they can look at your computer at their end. Then, they tell you the problem requires the purchase of some special software which means you need use your C/card details. Of course, I didn't go ahead with this! No one in their right mind should give out their C/C details. The woman caller was very aggressive and became really angry when I said I would ring Telstra on Monday to confirm this. So, beware of this scam, people have been caught.
    Oh - the latest scam is receiving a text message purportedly from DHL saying a parcel is waiting to be delivered. The provide a link you're supposed to access and it then asks your age, address, email, etc, etc. Ignore anything ilke this, they're just after your money.
    30th Dec 2019
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    Tags: scams, security, safety,

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