A new scam has started up which is linked to an ACT phone number and late last month saw a Goulburn resident robbed of $2,100.
NSW Police are warning people about the scam which preys on pensioners who are told they are to be given money.
Hume Police District officers say that the hoax revolves around scammers ringing a victim and telling them that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is going to give all pensioners $15,000 to help them out.
“However according to the scammer the victim has to go to the Post Office or anywhere they can purchase as many Google Play cards as possible,” stated the warning on the Hume Police District Facebook site.
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“Victims are then told to call the scammer back on the phone number below and scratch off the security seal from the back of the cards and read the verification numbers to the scammer over the phone.”
Police say that one recent victim of the scam in Goulburn purchased $2,100 worth of Google Play cards in late March and supplied all verification numbers to the scammer over the phone. That money is now gone.
“On this occasion what appeared to be an ACT landline number (02 61008484) was used by the scammer,” police stated.
“This number is a Skype phone number (not registered) and is NOT a landline number. It is a former phone number of a business in the ACT which has not been used for several years.
“All residents are warned NOT to pay any person, regardless of who or what they represent, in Google Play cards, iTunes cards or any other redeemable card.”
Scamwatch has warned that gift cards are increasingly the payment method of choice for scammers, with more than $5 million lost nationwide in this way in 2018 – a 38 per cent increase over the previous year.
iTunes cards accounted for $3.1 million in losses — a 156 per cent increase from the $1.23 million reported in 2017. However, Scamwatch has also seen an increase in reports involving other gift cards such as Google Play, Amazon, and Steam cards, and Australia Post Load & Go prepaid debit cards.
Losses to scams where non-iTunes gift cards were used as payment increased by 530 per cent in 2018 to around $1 million.
“Scammers like to get gift cards as payment as it’s easy for them to quickly sell them on secondary markets and pocket the cash,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“It’s concerning that the scammers are now demanding payment in other forms of gift cards. This is likely in response to scam warnings about using iTunes cards for paying scammers that are in stores like supermarkets and on the cards themselves.
“It’s clear the scammers are diversifying their payments to try to get around these warnings, so it’s vital people are aware that no legitimate company or government agency will ever ask you to make a payment with any sort of gift card,” Ms Rickard said.
“If anyone asks for payment using a gift card, it is a scam, simple as that.”
Ms Rickard said that if someone has paid a scammer with a gift card, they should report it as soon as possible.
“Call the company that issued the gift card and tell them the gift card was used in a scam. It’s very difficult to get your money back but the sooner you report it, the better your chances.”
Ms Rickard also encouraged businesses that sell iTunes, Google Wallet and similar gift cards to inform their staff about the scams so that they can help warn customers.
“If staff are informed they can identify the warning signs of a scam when they notice a customer spending large amounts of money on gift cards,” Ms Rickard said.
To find out more or report a scam go to www.scamwatch.gov.au