Australian residents continue to be targeted by phone scammers who pretend to be from Centrelink and claim that call recipients are eligible for a pay rise.
Centrelink is the Australian government agency responsible for the disbursement of social security payments such as pensions and unemployment benefits. It is administered by the Department of Human Services.
Often, the scam calls are automated messages that ask you to call back. In other cases, the scammers may call you directly.
Typically, the scammers will claim that Centrelink has been trying to contact you by mail about an increase in your payment but has received no response. Supposedly, because you did not respond, your files have been moved to head office in a far off city and your case is on hold. The scammers then give you a choice of either travelling in person to the other city to complete the necessary forms or paying an immediate fee to have the forms mailed to you.
They may warn that if you don’t deal with the issue immediately, you will not get the promised increase and your payment may be stopped completely.
If you agree to pay, the scammers will then instruct you to wire the fee to them via a money transfer service such as Western Union. Or, they may ask you to buy iTunes Gift Cards and then call back to provide the card numbers.
Centrelink or the Department of Human Services will never cold-call you and demand that you pay an immediate fee in order to keep receiving payments or get a pay increase. If Centrelink determines that you owe them money, they will make an arrangement with you to repay the amount, either by deducting a portion of your payments or by paying off the debt using a credit card, direct deposit, or BPay. They will certainly never ask you to pay any sort of fee or debt via gift cards or wire transfers.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Centrelink who asks you to pay an immediate fee, do not comply. Just hang up.
If you are unsure about the veracity of such a call, contact Centrelink or the Department of Human Services directly to ask about the call. Do not use a number supplied by the person who called. Instead, contact the department via the contact details supplied on the department’s official website or listed on legitimate letters or other trusted sources.