Police are urging people to be wary following reports of scammers impersonating authorities including police and the Australian Tax Office to obtain money from victims.
As part of the scam, victims have reported receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) or local police, who claim that the victim’s tax file number has been hacked or their account has been involved in fraudulent or criminal activity.
Offenders ask the victim what their local police station is and to google the number while the offender stays on the phone call.
On multiple occasions, the victim has proceeded to do this before providing the scammer with their local police station number.
The offender tells the victim that a police officer from that station will call them within five minutes to provide further information.
A short while later, someone calls from a number that the scammer has falsified to appear as if someone is calling from the victim’s local police station.
During this call, the scammer informs them they must move all their funds into a secure ATO account while it is investigated.
The victim is then contacted again with instructions to withdraw thousands of dollars and lodge them via an ATM into an account. Scammers will most often provide their bank details to victims via encrypted messaging services.
The offenders will repeat this process until the victim becomes suspicious or runs out of available funds.
On numerous occasions, victims have met with a participant of the scam in person to hand over the money.
Several incidents are being investigated by local Crime Investigation Units across the state which have occurred this year, including:
• A victim deposited $44,500 into various different accounts, and then the next day met with the scammer and handed over a further $25,000 in cash on Bourke Street.
• A victim was told to withdraw all funds from her bank account, with $9,000 deposited into the scammer’s account. The victim also handed over a further $5,000 to the scammer in a shopping centre carpark in Cheltenham.
• A victim attended a shopping centre in Knox and handed over $20,000 in cash initially, followed by another $10,000 in cash to the same scammer.
• A victim was instructed to purchase nine online gift cards worth $100 each as the scammer said this was a secure way to store their funds while their account was compromised. The victim then sent the card numbers and details to the scammer via an encrypted messaging service.
• In a similar case, a victim purchased 20 gift cards to department and supermarket stores worth over $10,000 and sent pictures of the gift cards to the scammer.
If you receive a phone call requesting personal information or payment from a person representing themselves from a law enforcement or government agency:
• Request a reference number and call back the institution to confirm via a publicly listed number on that organisation’s website or via a directory, or;
• Do not respond to the request and hang up.
If you have lost money as a result of this type of scam, please report the matter to your local police station.
You can also report scams to Scamwatch via https://bddy.me/2Eo8BuA
Anyone with information about crime can also confidentially report this to crime stoppers by calling 1800 333 000, or by submitting a report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au