Helpline assists Centrelink scam victims
A HELPLINE to assist Centrelink clients avoid financial loss or identity theft is being launched today.
Scammers impersonating departmental staff have used a whole range of tricks to extract money or personal information from unsuspecting victims.
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 passed on sensitive personal information that might be used to steal their identity.
The 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.
This may 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 also coincides with the start of Scams Awareness Week and serves as a timely reminder to all welfare recipients about the need to remain vigilant when contacted by people asking for money or personal information such as bank account details.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Scamwatch service received almost 33,000 reports of threat-based impersonation scams in 2017 where people claimed to be from a variety of government departments.
Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.
The methods used vary and include contacting people by phone, email, text messages or 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 caller is aggressive and tells the victim their benefit will be cut off within days if they do not pay.
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.
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 visit humanservices.gov.au/scams.