The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is aware of scam activity which specifically targets DVA clients. Below is some information on potential scams and measures you can take to avoid being scammed.
Scams specifically targeting DVA clients
- Callers claiming to be from DVA requesting personal information, including bank details and ATM PIN numbers, in order to arrange payments under the Household Assistance Scheme.
- Callers claiming to be from the Department of Fair Trading requesting confirmation of bank account details for a survey regarding banking fees. Partial details of account number and BSB may also be supplied by the caller and the caller inviting people to complete the missing detail.
- Callers claiming to be from DVA asking for personal information over the phone, including gold card numbers, bank account details, passport numbers and driving licence numbers. Callers claim to be providing free grants, lump sum arrears payments or similar, and request a small up-front payment before funds can be released.
- Debt collection – callers claiming to be from DVA advising clients they owe DVA money in overpaid pension funds. Clients are then instructed to pay the debt, as well as an additional processing fee, by money transfer.
- Australia Military Forces letter – claims to be sent on behalf of DVA advising of unclaimed arrears payments, and requesting personal identity information.
- Letters sent to war widows from a collection agency claiming to be sent on behalf of DVA, and advising of arrears owing to the estates of deceased veterans. The letters request identity documents, including marriage certificates, to be forwarded along with bank details to enable the arrears payments to be released.
- Report received of a DVA client being requested to provide their DVA pension bank account details over the phone to enable a $5000 Government bonus to be paid.
- In one case an appointment for a home visit was made by a caller claiming to be from DVA, advising of the need to obtain an update of an 82 year old client’s bank records. (Reported to Vic Police).
- A caller claiming to be from DVA advised a client that he owed DVA $5,000 in overpaid pension funds. The client was instructed to pay the debt, as well as an additional $240 processing fee, by Western Union international money transfer.
General community scams:
- Australian Grants Department - callers offer free lump sum grant payments of up to $4,000 on receipt of a small upfront payment of $199.
- Art Council – callers invite DVA clients to join a class action to retrieve overpaid fees from banks.
- Scam emails – claiming to be from financial institutions, includes a fake number to call to discuss an important banking issue. The email is worded such that the recipient believes it to be genuine, with phrases such as “as you know, this bank would never ask you to provide your personal details by email”. However, the phone number listed on the email is fake and set up to sound just like automated phone banking, asking for account/card number and PIN etc. to be keyed in. This facilitates the collection of, and access to, personal bank accounts by the scammers.
Identity theft prevention measures:
- Keep key documents secure at home and when travelling;
- Only carry essential information;
- Destroy personal documents before disposing of them;
- Put a lock on your letterbox;
- Activate Caller ID on your phone and note any suspicious calls;
- When banking online, check the ‘closed padlock’ symbol is displayed;
- Never access a banking site through a link in an email;
- If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is;
- Never provide account details in order to receive winnings/prizes;
- Choose strong, obscure passwords using a mix of letters, symbols and digits and change them regularly;
- Avoid giving personal information over the phone or internet;
- If suspicious of a caller, get the caller’s name, title, and a number, and offer to call back;
- Use wiping or erasing software before selling or disposing of your computer. Simply deleting files or formatting the hard drive is not enough; and
Be suspicious of callers requesting personal information in exchange for new government services such as free electricity or pension benefits.
Warning signs of stolen identity:
- Missing mail;
- New credit cards arrive without application;
- Calls from creditors;
- Unfamiliar account activity e.g. charges or withdrawals;
- Unfamiliar bills;
- Denial of credit; and
- Non-receipt of credit cards or account statements.
What to do?
- Immediately contact police in your state or territory
- Alert your bank, Credit Union or Building Society, cancel all cards and accounts, get PINs reissued;
- Close all unauthorised billing accounts of which you are aware; and
- Report particular losses to the relevant authorities e.g. DVA, Centrelink, Medicare Australia, and the relevant state transport authority that issued your drivers licence, e.g.. Vic Roads or RTA NSW.
A useful government website to monitor is SCAMwatch [www.scamwatch.gov.au] this site contains useful information on how to protect your privacy and regular updates on scam activity.