Threat-based scams

Skip listen and sharing tools

Video transcript: Bogus government agency scam (Word, 25KB)

Rate this video

How the scam works

The scammer pretends to be from a government department, bank or well-known organisation and tries to trick you into paying them money. Scammers may present themselves as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Centrelink, Victoria Police, energy and water companies or other well-known organisations.

Here are some common versions of this scam:

  • The scammer emails you saying you have unclaimed tax returns. They ask you to pay a processing fee to release the funds and may ask for your bank account details to claim a tax rebate. Remember, you will never have to pay to claim a tax return from the ATO.
  • The scammer calls you saying you owe the government money and threatens that if you do not pay immediately, there will be a warrant issued for your arrest.
  • The scammer claims you must register, for a fee, to comply with legislation that applies to your business.

If in doubt, always check directly with the organisation the scammer claims to be calling from before you pay any fees. You can check the organisation's website for their contact details. For a full list of government departments and agencies, visit the Australian Government Directory website.

Be wary of any letter or email from a government agency, especially one that asks you to pay money or provide bank details. Scammers often copy government logos and letter formats. The copied logos may appear with pixels or be blurry or a slightly different colour.

Protect yourself:

  • Government websites usually end in Scam emails often direct you to fake websites.
  • Call the organisation to check the letter or email is real. Use a phone number you know is legitimate, not the phone number provided in the letter.
  • Government departments will not ask you to make a payment to get benefits that you are owed.