The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned about a recent series of hoax emails claiming the recipient is entitled to a payment from the consumer watchdog, as reports mount of scammers impersonating government officials.
The latest incidents come after the Australian Bureau of Statistics recently warned about scammers calling people in Victoria pretending to be from the agency, asking them for personal or financial information as part of a survey.
Similarly, Telstra in August warned of a 400% increase in phone scams over the past 12 months, with many calls claiming to be from the telecommunications giant.
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In the latest scam, the recipient receives an email claiming ACCC action against a scammer resulted in an order to pay $195,000, and that they are entitled to $400 as a result of the action.
In order to claim the money, the recipient is instructed to dial a premium rate overseas phone number. The message also contains text that appears to link to the official ACCC website, but instead links to a fake Gmail account (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In an official statement, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said government departments will never contact you asking you to pay money upfront in order to claim a fee or rebate.
“It is yet another variation of the reclaim scam that sees scammers claim to represent the government, a bank or some other trusted organisation and offer refunds, grants or other monies,” Rickard said.
“If you are contacted out of the blue and told that you are entitled to money in exchange for an upfront fee, delete it – if you hand over your money, it’s gone.”
The ACCC also warns it’s rare to recover money from a scammer, and that people should not send money or give their financial details to someone they don’t know and trust.
The ABS similarly warns that its surveys never ask participants to provide, or confirm, bank account details or tax file numbers.
Meanwhile, Combo managing director David Markus told SmartCompany there are ways businesses can reduce their business liabilities from staff falling for similar scams while at work.
“It is sad that $400 is enough to motivate people to take a risk like this. People are motivated by basic instincts like greed, and from that point of view we’re all at risk of this,” Markus says.
“But from a business point of view, businesses need to take a look at their systems to make sure they reduce their risks. On many modern phone systems, for example, there are ways to block overseas numbers that staff don’t need to use.
“It also highlights the need for businesses to provide ongoing education to their staff about these sorts of risks.”
People can verify the legitimacy of calls from the ABS by hanging up and calling 1300 135 070, while users who notice similar scams can report them to the ACCC’s official ScamWatch website.