They’ve been blasted in the past for long call wait times and phone queues that never seem to end, but Centrelink has now launched a new helpline, this time for those who’ve been duped by fraudsters posing as department officials.
The phone line was called for after the Department of Human Services received more than 1,200 calls in the past six months from people who had fallen victim to scammers, either losing money or handing over their personal information.
Scammers use many tactics to extract money or personal information from unsuspecting victims and impersonating Centrelink employees is a technique that is becoming increasingly common.
Centrelink says the helpline will provide advice and assistance to clients on what steps they need to take next to protect themselves from further financial loss. This will include things such as increasing the security and identity verification settings of their Centrelink accounts, or referring them to external agencies that specialise in assisting scam victims.
The introduction of the call line comes after the stories of several scam victims made the headlines. One case involved a pensioner called Rosa who was conned into handing over $600 over the telephone to a caller posing as a Centrelink employee.
The fraudster was aggressive towards Rosa and told her that she was in danger of losing her pension if she did not pay a $300 penalty, before also convincing her to buy $300 worth of iTunes vouchers.
A Centrelink spokesperson said they hoped that the launch of this helpline, which coincides with Scam Awareness Week, would serve as a reminder to anyone in receipt of welfare to remain vigilant when contacted by anyone asking for money or personal details.
Last year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch service received almost 33,000 reports of threat-based impersonation scams where people claimed to be from a variety of government departments. Over $4.7 million was reported lost and more than 2,800 people gave their personal information to these scammers.
The new helpline number is 1800 941 126. It is only open to Centrelink clients who are currently receiving a welfare payment.
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