Australians are being urged to watch out for government impersonation scams, which are on the rise during tax time. More than 7,100 reports have been made to Scamwatch so far this year, with over $1.26 million lost. However, losses are likely to be far greater.

 

Many of the scams reported include text messages claiming to be from myGov or from agencies claiming to help victims gain early access to their superannuation.

“Scammers are increasingly taking advantage of the financial difficulties and uncertainty generated from the COVID-19 pandemic to trick unsuspecting Australians,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“We are seeing two main types of scams impersonating government departments; fake government threats and phishing scams.”

“Both of these scams can be quite convincing and can lead to significant financial losses or even identity theft.”

In a fake government threat scam:

  • Victims receive a robocall pretending to be from a government department, such as the ATO or Department of Home Affairs.
  • The scammer will claim something illegal, such as tax fraud or money laundering, has been committed in the victim’s name and they should dial 1 to speak to an operator.
  • The scammer then tries to scare people into handing over money and may threaten that they will be arrested if they refuse.

 

“Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller and take your time to consider who you might be dealing with,” Ms Rickard said.

“Government departments will never threaten you with immediate arrest or ask for payment by unusual methods such as gift cards, iTunes vouches or bank transfers.”

In a phishing scam:

  • Victims will receive an email or text message claiming to be from a government department, such as Services Australia, requesting personal details to confirm their eligibility for a government payment or because the person may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • The emails and texts will include a link and request personal details such as a tax file number, superannuation details or copies of identity documents.

 

“Don’t click on any hyperlinks in texts or emails to reach a government website, always type the address into the browser yourself,” Ms Rickard explains.

“Do not respond to texts or emails as the scammer will escalate their attempts to get your money.”

“If you’re not sure whether a call is legitimate, hang up and call the relevant organisation directly by finding the details though an independent search,” Ms Rickard said.

 

More information on scams is available on the Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help. The ACCC also recommends that you report the scam to the government department that was impersonated.

 

Background

So far in 2020 (1 January-5 July) Scamwatch has received:

  • 67 reports of scams involving impersonation of the Department of Health, or state Department of Health and Human Services, with losses over $8700.
  • 443 reports of scams involving Australian Federal Police impersonations with losses over $176,000.
  • 1,070 reports of scams involving Services Australia impersonations with losses over $94,000.
  • 1,638 reports of scams involving myGov impersonations with losses over $105,000.
  • 2,016 reports of scams involving Department of Home Affairs impersonations with losses over $99,000.
  • 2,389 reports of scams involving ATO impersonations with losses over $905,000.


Need help?

If you believe someone has gained access to your personal information, even if the scam appears unrelated to your finances, you should contact your bank immediately. A timely response can be critical in giving you the best chance to stem any loss.

  • If you have concerns about your G&C Mutual Bank account contact us on 1300 364 400
  • If you have been the victim of identity theft, IDCARE can guide you through the steps to reclaim your identity. Contact them on 1300 432 273 or via https://www.idcare.org
  • You can find out how scams work, how to protect yourself, what to do if you’ve been scammed or report a scam to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) via the Scamwatch website www.scamwatch.gov.au.