SCAMMERS impersonating government agencies are sharpening their methods to steal money and information from consumers.

A fresh warning has come from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about a surge in National Broadband Network impersonators, and follows similar warnings about scammers claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink.

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ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said the NBN scammers were signing up victims to fake accounts and often demanding payments using iTunes gift cards. Others were impersonating NBN staff to gain remote access to people’s computers, or requesting personal details as part of a phony NBN set-up.

“NBN will never call you remotely to ‘fix’ a problem with your computer, or to request personal information like your Medicare number or your bank account numbers,” Ms Rickard said.

“NBN is a wholesaler, meaning they don’t sell direct to the public. If you get an unsolicited call like this, it’s a big red flag that you’re dealing with a scammer.”

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The ACCC says its service has received 316 complaints this year about NBN scammers, with $28,000 reported lost. Last year it received more than 2200 reports about fraudsters pretending to be from Centrelink or the Department of Human Services.

The ATO also has warned people to beware that scammers impersonating its officers are becoming more sophisticated.

ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said reports of tax scams rose 23 per cent in July, after rising 26 per cent in June.

“As we get better at letting people know, the scammers are getting better at finding new ways,” she said.

Ms Anderson said fraudsters were using people’s personal information to file fake tax returns, have the refund deposited in the victim’s bank account, then contact them pretending to be from the ATO saying the deposit was a mistake and getting the money transferred to the scammers’ account.

“It’s quite elaborate … They don’t go for big amounts — they’re trying to fly under the radar,” she said.

Ms Anderson said the best defence was keeping your information safe. “Your personal information must be treated like your bank PIN. If someone knew your PIN, they would have access to your hard-earned income, and it’s the same with your personal information and tax return.”

People concerned about whether they have been legitimately contacted by the ATO can call 1800 008 540, while those worried that their tax file number might be stolen should phone 1800 467 033.


Originally published as ’Sophisticated’ scams stealing your money