In recent months phone scams have become increasingly prevalent with a string of scams reported in the local region.
Recently the Yarrawonga Neighbourhood House has received an alarming increase of locals reporting wary phone calls.
“We have had an increasing number of people coming in with concerns over phone calls from Centrelink,” Community Programs Coordinator Debbie Cooper said.
“While the payments targeted vary, the callers are asking these people to call them back on a number they give them. We have reported the numbers to scamwatch.
“Our advice to people who receive these calls is to hang up and if they are concerned use the call centres numbers for their type of payment.
“As a DHS agency we are also happy for people to raise their concerns with us and give advice.
“The legitimate Centrelink Call Centre numbers you can call if you are concerned about any payments are: Retirement/Age Pension 132 300, Disability, Sickness and Carers 132 717, Employment 132 850, Families 136 150 and Youth & Students 132 490.”
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is also warning taxpayers to be alert for scammers impersonating the ATO, as scammers change tactics in 2019.
Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat said scammers have been developing new ways to get taxpayers’ money and personal information over the summer break.
“We are seeing the emergence of a new scam, where scammers are using an ATO number to send fraudulent SMS messages to taxpayers asking them to click on a link and hand over their personal details in order to obtain a refund,” she said.
The ATO received many reports in 2018 of scammers maliciously manipulating the calling line identification so the phone number that appears is different to the number from which the call originated. This is known as “spoofing” and is a common technique used by scammers in an attempt to make their interactions with taxpayers appear legitimate.
Ms Foat is warning the community to be aware that legitimate email domains and SMS origins can also be ‘spoofed’ by scammers.
“This scam is not just targeting your money but is after your personal information in an attempt to steal your identity,” she said.
“Taxpayers should be wary of any phone call, text message, email or letter about a tax refund or debt, especially if you weren’t expecting it.”
While the ATO regularly contacts taxpayers by phone, email and SMS, there are some tell-tale signs that it isn’t the ATO. The ATO will not:
send you an email or SMS asking you to click on a link to provide login, personal or financial information, or to download a file or open an attachment;
use aggressive or rude behaviour, or threaten you with arrest, jail or deportation;
request payment of a debt via iTunes or Google Play cards, pre-paid Visa cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit to a personal bank account; or
request a fee in order to release a refund owed to you.
“If you are unsure about a call, text message or email that you have received, don’t reply. It’s OK to slow down and phone us on 1800 008 540 to check if the contact was legitimate or to report a scam,” Ms Foat said.
“The community plays an important role in stopping scammer activities by reporting them to our scam line. Your reports help us to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the current scams, which ultimately helps protect the Australian community.”
The ATO’s dedicated scam reporting line is 1800 008 540.