Watchdog copycats: ASIC warns phone scammers are impersonating them

Watchdog copycats: ASIC warns phone scammers are impersonating them

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has issued a warning about a scam involving people impersonating them and asking for sensitive financial information over the phone.

While the corporate watchdog regularly issues warnings about other types of scams, on Monday it warned businesses and consumers about cold callers asking for personal and financial details and claiming to work for the agency.

The watchdog is encouraging anyone who is concerned they have fallen victim to such a scam to contact their financial institution.

Warren Day, ASIC executive leader of assessment and intelligence, said the scams are targeted at individuals.  

“They may even pretend to be from a government agency to appear genuine and may use your information to commit other scams,” he said.

“We encourage the public to be cautious of calls like these.

“If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone in these circumstances, no matter who they claim to be, simply hang up.”

AVG security advisor Michael McKinnon told SmartCompany this morning this type of scam is nothing new.

“We’ve certainly seen this before,” he says.

“As potential victims or targets get savvy about what is or what isn’t legitimate, scammers are left with no option but to impersonate the most plausible, believable agencies they can.

“Scammers have to have an entry point, they have to have something victims are going to believe to start the scam.”

McKinnon recalls one conversation he had with a victim of a similar scam who realised he was being spammed by cold callers but a couple of months later received another call from someone claiming to be from an enforcement agency out to catch the scammers for a processing fee, which ended up being another scam.

He says this particular scam, if it is specifically targeting ASIC, is intentionally attempting to damage the government’s agency’s reputation.

“It could be to affect the reputation of Scam Watch and ASIC and deliberately disrupt their operations by cluttering their workload,” he says.

“There’s a possibility it could be along those lines.”

McKinnon says businesses are particularly vulnerable to this scam.

“In a business setting, the trust or the bar is lower. If you get a call at home people tend to be sceptical, but if you get a call in a business setting, you tend to be more trusting because you’re dealing with strangers all the time,” he says.

McKinnon says businesses can mitigate against this type of scam by informing their employees.

“As soon as someone can identify a scam call, the best thing to do is terminate the call and not give further information out,” he says.

“You need to train staff and make employees aware of existence of these scams in order to effectively protect your business against scams.”

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