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Recognising Centrelink scams

As scams become increasingly common and sophisticated, it’s important to be aware if you could you be in danger of falling for one. Finance expert Narelle Cooper shares information about Centrelink scams targeting seniors and how to recognise if you’re being scammed.  

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck then sadly in this day and age it MAY NOT be a duck. Metaphorically speaking.

Have you ever read a scam story and thought ‘how did they fall for that one?’. Yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to see the trick until after the event and then we are one of ‘those people’! Let me assure you, before you beat yourself up, that scammers are getting very good at what they set out to do.

A client’s experience with a Centrelink scam

One example is when one of our clients contacted us about a Centrelink call they received that seemed suspicious. Our clients were not home at the time and the caller left a message saying they were from Centrelink and that they needed to call them back immediately. The number that was given was an ordinary (02) Sydney number.

We were more than happy to try the number on behalf of our client, however, to our great disappointment, the number just rang out, with no one answering our call.

It is more than likely that this was a scam set up to obtain their personal information. Do a bit of digging and you find that the sale of personal information is a huge business. Your personal information can be used for unsolicited contacts or fraudulently obtaining loans, driver’s licences or even passports.

Now these ‘scammers’ do not only use Centrelink as an excuse to extract information or money from people. As Centrelink is our area of expertise, I will only be addressing this approach. The first step to protecting yourself is to know when to hang up the phone or delete the text or email.

Spotting potential Centrelink scams

If you think the telephone call, email or SMS you have received is suspicious, remember the following points:

  • Centrelink never ask for personal information over the phone, via email or SMS. They already have all your personal details. Including your bank account numbers.
  • Centrelink never ask for any form of payment over the phone or via email or SMS.
  • Centrelink never get you to reply by email or SMS to any electronic message they send you.
  • Centrelink would never visit your home to give you a payment.
  • Centrelink never work with other companies to offer you special deals.
  • Centrelink would never ask you to click on internet links in an SMS or email.
  • Centrelink would never ask training organisations to contact you on their behalf.
  • Centrelink would never contact you about being eligible for an increase in your payment. Any increases happen automatically.

Who can help with reporting or identifying scams

There are a number of organisations who are able to help with scams. These include:

  • SCAMWATCH: Run by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), Scam Watch is the first stop for information and reporting scams.
  • IDCARE: is a charity organisation offering a free national identity support service.
  • ACORN: Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network run by the Australian Government offers information and reporting options.
  • MONEYSMART: part of ASIC and run by the Australian Government, MoneySmart provides information relating to all forms of scams.

Whether you think you have been scammed, want to report a suspicious contact or to get information on the type of scams that are out there, one of these organisations will be able to help.

What to do if you think you’re being scammed

These two simple steps will help you if you are not sure the contact is actually from Centrelink:

  1. Don’t answer any questions over the phone. Ask for a contact name and number and tell them that you will get back to them. This will give you time to assess the validity of the contact. Hang up immediately if they do not give you their name or contact number.
  2. Contact one of the above organisations.

CAPA Services is more than happy to help (no charge or obligation) if it stops any Centrelink scams from being successful.

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