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Warning over ‘pension bonus’ scam

Criminals are targeting Centrelink clients with messages offering non-existent bonus payments

Be wise about scams

Australians made more than 601,000 scam reports last year and billions were lost to scams, according to the latest Targeting Scams report. Older people suffered the greatest harm at the hands of scammers.

Finance expert Effie Zahos, who is chief content officer of InvestSmart and writes for National Seniors' Money Matters newsletter, recently spoke about common scams on the Channel 9 Today show. You can watch that segment here

National Seniors has partnered with the Australian Federal Police to release a series of videos on cyber safety which you can view here

If you want to improve your digital skills, BeConnected offers online classes, including a podcast on how to avoid impersonation scams.

Seniors are being warned about a new scam that targets people on the Age Pension, promising them a large amount of money from Centrelink. 

Services Australia, the department that oversees Centrelink, said messages on social media and in online advertisements were promising “extra” or “bonus” payments – in one case, as much as $1,800 – if you visit a fake website. 

“If you visit one of these websites or click their links, it may take you to an unsafe scam web page designed to steal your personal information,” the department said. 

“Don’t trust these unofficial websites for advice about Centrelink payments. 

“Only go to our official Services Australia website to get information about the payments and services we deliver.” 

Services Australia and other government bodies – including the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) – have identified many types of scams targetting older Australians. 

Active scams include: 

  • MyGov scams, where people receive a text message, email, or phone call purporting to be from myGov seeking further information so a large payment can be made. 

  • Medicare scams, which involve fake texts or emails seeking your details, saying your card has been cancelled or claiming that you need to make a payment. 

  • Fake disaster relief agencies. Cold-hearted criminals are taking advantage of tragedies by soliciting donations to non-existent charities and relief organisations or even ripping off the victims of natural disasters. 

  • COVID-19 scams. A scam text message says you can order a free test kit because you’ve been in contact with a positive COVID case. It includes a fake link where you can order the kit. Similar scams offer a payment if you’ve been vaccinated. 

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said recently that scammers were also targeting older people looking for investment opportunities, often using fake images or videos of celebrities and other well-known people.

“We know of a recent case where an elderly woman lost her life savings after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video on social media, clicking the link and registering her details online,” she said. 

“She was assigned a ‘financial advisor’ and could see on an online dashboard she was apparently making returns, but she couldn’t withdraw her money.” 

The recent Federal Budget set aside $67.5 million over four years, mainly going to the ACCC, ASIC, and ACMA, to enforce new mandatory industry codes to prevent scamming. 

While government agencies are strengthening their efforts to fight scammers, you are the first line of defence by being vigilant about information sent to your phone, email address, or social media and web pages you visit. 


Related stories: Your Life Choices, Services Australia, Yahoo Finance


Brett Debritz

Brett Debritz

Communications Specialist, National Seniors Australia

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