Australians have been told to be on alert against a new scam in which victims are tricked into handing over sensitive personal details to scammers posing as the Australian Energy Regulator.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER), which works to monitor the country’s wholesale energy and gas markets, said it has received reports of a phone scam which sees a scammer pretend it is calling from the AER to offer the victim a Government rebate for power.
The scammer says the rebate is on offer due to the coronavirus pandemic, but then asks for bank details to deposit the funds.
“If a consumer receives contact from the AER, it’s important to know we will never ask for your bank details,” said AER chair Clare Savage.
“Anyone who receives such a call should not provide any personal or financial information and hang up immediately.
“We are taking this scam seriously and it has been reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).”
Australians have already lost $102 million to scams in the months to August 2020, with phone scams the most costly and common.
And while younger Australians aged 25 to 44 are among the most likely to report a scam, Australians aged over 65 lose the most money to scams.
Covid-19 has presented a major opportunity to scammers, the ACCC has warned, noting that it has received more than 4,160 scams reports related to coronavirus.
Those scams have cost Australians an accumulative $3.36 million in reported losses, with most scams asking users for personal information.
So far scammers have posed as the Department of Social Services’ myGov platform, the Department of Health, the Australian Tax Office, and the police.
Scammers have also taken advantage of renters’ inability to carry out housing inspections due to lockdown restrictions by making fake listings.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, with more people working and socialising online, we have unfortunately seen a sharp increase in scammers seeking personal information,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“Personal information, such as bank and superannuation details or passwords, are extremely valuable and scammers will try to steal them for their own financial gain. Our increased use of technology has created more opportunities for them to do so.
“Scammers will also try and steal a range of other documents, or the numbers associated with them, including passports, driver licences, credit cards, tax statements, utility bills or Medicare cards, so that they can impersonate you.”
The best way to stay safe is to remain suspicious of any unsolicited calls or messages asking you to provide personal or financial details, and instead hang up or delete.
Similarly, if you receive a text or email with a hyperlink inviting you to click to redeem a benefit or avoid prosecution, remain wary. Even if it appears to be from a trusted source, it could well be a scam.
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