The Department of Human Services warns people to be aware of the growing threat of scam emails, phone calls and SMS messages pretending to be from the department.
How common are scams?
We receive reports of scam emails, phone calls and SMS messages and are aware of several recent scams. The number of scams being reported has substantially increased in recent years and new types of scams emerge regularly. The threat of scams is very real, and anyone can be the victim of a scam, even those who are generally careful.
We remind people to be cautious if they are contacted by someone claiming to be from the government.
How to identify a scam
There are many different types of scams, and they can look or sound very convincing. Most of them try to obtain personal information, or ask people to pay fees or transfer money to receive a government payment. In order to identify possible scams, it can help to be aware of what the Department of Human Services will do and things we won’t do.
The department does call, SMS or email people from time to time, and may ask questions to confirm we are speaking to the correct person, including asking for the person’s name, address and Customer Reference Number. The department’s staff will always introduce and identify themselves clearly.
The department never asks people to:
- send personal information (e.g. Medicare number) or provide documents (e.g. identity documents) by email, SMS or social media
- transfer money or purchase gift cards or vouchers, such as iTunes cards, to receive a payment or service
- provide passwords to bank accounts
- download files from the internet or email attachments
- pay a fee to receive a payment or service
How people can protect themselves from scams
Scams are becoming more sophisticated so it’s important to take the right steps to protect yourself. If someone is unsure about who is contacting them, or suspects that an email, phone call, SMS or Facebook message might be a scam, they should not give out any personal information or follow any instructions.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! If something seems unusual or dodgy, we suggest people get a second opinion from a friend, colleague or family member.
Talking through concerns out loud with someone else can help to identify messages that may be fake before clicking a malicious link or giving away any personal information.
People should never click on any links, or download any files or attachments in suspicious emails, SMS or Facebook messages and should delete the message immediately.
If a person has any doubt about the identity of a caller claiming to represent the department, they should not engage in conversation, but should ask for the caller’s full name and contact phone number. They should call the department on one of the phone numbers listed on our website.
People can also visit:
- SCAMwatch.gov.au, which provides useful information for people and small businesses on how to recognise and avoid scams, where to get help, and learn from real life stories
- StaySmartOnline.gov.au, which provides simple, easy to understand advice on how to protect yourself online as well as up-to-date information on the latest online threats and how to respond
- The department’s scam website and online security website, which provides information about scams designed to imitate the department, and ways we help people stay safe online.
What people should do if they think they have been scammed
If someone has been the victim of a scam or provided their personal details to a scammer, such as identity documents or their Centrelink Customer Reference Number, Medicare Card Number, full name, date of birth, address or email, they should:
- Immediately call our department’s scams and identity theft line
- Report the scam to the authorities.
- Contact the organisation that issued the identity information, for example the financial institution or motor registry.
They might be able to help by stopping a money transfer or cheque, investigating a fraudulent credit card transaction or issuing you with a replacement document.
Audio and Video
Spoken by Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen.
News Grab 1
Transcript: The Department of Human Services is aware of the growing threat of scams, and we warn people to be cautious if they are contacted by someone claiming to be from a Government department.
Download audio: DHS – Scams Audio Grab 1 (MP3, 245 KB)
Download video: DHS – Scams Video Grab 1 (MP4, 19.99 MB)
News Grab 2
Transcript: There are many different types of scams; scam emails, phone calls, SMS and Facebook messages, and they can look or sound very convincing. Most of them try to obtain money, or personal information, or ask people to pay fees or transfer money to receive a Government payment.
Download audio: DHS – Scams Audio Grab 2 (MP3, 384 KB)
Download video: DHS – Scams Video Grab 2 (MP4, 21.1 MB)
News Grab 3
Transcript: If a person’s unsure about who is contacting them, they shouldn’t give out any personal information or follow any instructions. Instead, they should call the department on one of the phone numbers listed on our website.
Download audio: DHS – Scams Audio Grab 3 (MP3, 279 KB)
Download video: DHS – Scams Video Grab3 (MP4, 21.01 MB)