Centrelink has launched a special scams helpline to assist clients who have fallen victim to fraudsters or identity thieves posing as departmental staff.
Scammers use many tactics to extract money or personal information, and impersonating Centrelink employees is one method that is sadly becoming more common.
In one current scam, a very aggressive caller claims to work for Centrelink, and is seeking to recover a debt. The caller tells the victim that their benefit will be cut off within days if they do not pay up. A pensioner victim was told she needed to pay a $300 penalty, using iTunes gift cards, or she would lose her pension.
In another case, a woman received an email that appeared to be from Centrelink, telling her that she could claim a “subsidy benefit”, if she provided copies of her identity documents, including her Medicare Card and/or Health Care Card.
After a week, she had heard nothing more, so she contacted the Department of Human Services, which advised her that the subsidy benefit did not exist. The scammer would probably try to use her documents to commit identity fraud.
The Department of Human Services received more than 1270 calls for help 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 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch service received almost 33,000 reports of similar scams last year. Over $4.7 million was reported lost, and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.
The new helpline number is 1800 941 126. It is only open to Centrelink clients who are currently receiving a welfare payment.
For more information about scams and how to avoid them, people can also visit humanservices.gov.au/scams.