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Scammers impersonating utility companies

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The ACCC is warning consumers to beware of scammers impersonating energy and telecommunications providers and demanding payments.

The scammers typically impersonate well known companies such as Origin, AGL, Telstra and Optus via email, to fool people into assuming the bills are real. They send bulk emails or letters which include a logo and design features closely copied from the genuine provider. The bill states the account is overdue and if  not paid immediately the customer will incur late charges or be disconnected.

Alternatively, the bill may claim that the customer has overpaid and is owed a refund or it may simply say the bill is due and ready to pay.

Older Australians should particularly be wary of  emails pretending to be from utility companies, with people over 65 reporting the most fake utility billing scam incidents.

Customers should never use the contact details provided on the suspicious email or letter but instead use an independent source to locate contact details such as a past bill or the phone book. 

In one case reported to the ACCC, a customer received a fake Telstra bill in the mail. The bill stated the customer’s account was overdue and immediate payment was needed. The customer dialled the phone number provided on the fake bill and was asked for his date of birth and driver’s licence number to confirm his identity.  If customers are duped into phoning scammers they will then attempt to steal as much personal information as they can.

Tips on how consumers can protect themselves:

  • If you receive a bill outside of your normal billing cycle, or don’t expect to receive an overdue notice, call your provider (on their registered number - not the number on the bill) to check whether it is legitimate.
  • If you are not a customer of the company simply delete the email.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in an email from an unverified sender – they may contain a malicious virus.
  • Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email or over the phone.
  • Keep your computer secure – always update your firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and only buy from a verified source.

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