Thousands of pensioners are being sought out by scammers, leading the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to issue a warning for people to be mindful of any phone calls regarding their welfare payments.
So much damage has been caused through Centrelink that since January the commission has received over 2,200 reports.
While the scam has been around for some time, the damage has increased significantly from $3,500 in 2015 to over $27,000 this year alone, and is being attributed to the use of scarier and more threatening tactics.
“If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the Department of Human Services or Centrelink and claiming that you are eligible for an increase in your pension or benefit − hang up,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“The scammer will claim that you’ve been sent a letter about an increase in your benefits and not responded to it. They will then claim that your file has been sent to Canberra and that you can either go to Canberra to fill out the required form or you can pay a fee and have the forms sent to you.”
Ms Rickard said the scammer will usually ask for the money to be wired to them and threaten to cancel the victim’s pension if they don’t come through with their requests.
“The scammer’s main objective is to get your money and they usually ask for payment via wire money transfer or iTunes cards. To push you into paying this money, the scammer might threaten that you will not receive any further benefits until the situation is resolved,” Ms Rickard said.
But how is one to know that the phone call is not legitimate?
“The Department of Human Services will never ask you to deposit money in order to receive a payment,” Ms Rickard assures.
She says that if a person is in doubt, to abstain from using any contact details provided by the caller and to then look up the government department or organisation in the phone book or online, and phone or email them directly.
The ACCC asks that all pensioners share this information to warn others.