The NSW Police Force is warning the community about an elaborate phone scam, believed to be linked to transnational organised crime syndicates, which are targeting people across the state.
In the past month, several people across NSW have reported receiving a call from someone purporting to be a NSW Police Force officer or government agency representative, demanding money under the threat of violence or arrest.
Many of these calls are made using caller ID spoofing, where the number appears to be that of the agency they claim to represent.
The caller then convinces the person to divulge personal information, before giving instructions to purchase gifts cards or withdraw money and provide it to a nominated person.
At 11am on Friday 4 December 2020, a woman was contacted by a caller purporting to be from Service NSW, who advised their tax file number and personal accounts had been compromised.
The woman was advised to withdraw $10,000 cash and provide it to an undercover police officer at a shopping centre at Miranda, before contacting Cronulla Police Station to establish new accounts.
Upon receiving the woman’s call, detectives from Sutherland Shire Police Area Command commenced an investigation and subsequently arrested a 34-year-old man just before 9am on Friday 11 December 2020.
The Roselands man was charged with three counts of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception and recklessly deal with proceeds of crime (greater than $5000).
Police will allege in court the man fraudulently obtained $42,500 cash from three separate women through scam phone calls.
He was granted strict conditional bail to appear at Sutherland Local Court on Thursday 21 January 2021.
Do not provide personal information
Financial Crimes Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett, urged the community to never provide any personal information on unsolicited calls, instead report the incident immediately.
‘These callers purport to be various government officials and the essence of the scam is to convince the victim they are in trouble, but they can pay their way out of it,’ Det. Supt. Howlett said.
‘Sadly, this is not the first time these types of scam phone calls have circulated in the community, and likely won’t be the last.
‘These scams often have ties to organised criminal syndicates operating across the country and around the world and are designed to take advantage of people’s trust in authorities,’ she said.
‘All reports of fraud will be thoroughly investigated by the NSW Police Force and we will continue to put perpetrators before the courts.
‘As we continue working with our law enforcement colleagues here and abroad to investigate the origins of these scams, we are urging the community to heed our warning not to respond to caller demands. If a call is received, the best course of action is to hang-up and report to police, said Det. Supt. Howlett.
More phone scams recently reported to police
On Monday 14 December 2020, a 42-year-old woman received a phone call from a woman claiming to represent the Australian Taxation Office. A short time later, the woman received a call from a man purporting to be a local police officer and instructed her to withdraw cash and deliver it to him. The woman complied and provided the man $22,000 cash at a shopping centre at Wetherill Park.
Investigations into the incident are being conducted by Liverpool City Police Area Command.
On Thursday 17 December 2020, a man received a call from an individual purporting to be a NSW Police Force officer from a local police station. The caller advised the man his tax file number had been used by another individual currently in $1 million debt. To rectify the issue, he was advised to purchase gifts cards valued at $5500.
The details were then provided to the caller before officers from Cumberland Police Area Command were notified.
Police are urging anyone with information that may assist investigators in relation to this scam to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.
Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
Police remind the public to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of being scammed by cold-callers:
- If you receive a threatening phone call (and demanding money), hang up immediately.
- Do not disclose personal details to the caller.
- Never provide your personal or banking details to a person who calls you.
- Never provide your financial PIN or account passwords to anyone.
- Do not make any payments to the caller, either via phone, internet, or cash.
- If you are suspicious about the credentials of a person on the phone, ask questions of them.
- If they avoid answering or refuse to provide information, hang up.
- Don’t let scammers pressure you – scammers use detailed scripts to convince you that they’re the real deal and create a high-pressure situation to make a decision on the spot
- If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
- Contact police immediately to report the incident.
To learn more about scams and how to protect yourself, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, you can report it to local police or to the ACCC online at the ‘SCAMwatch report a scam’ page or by calling 1300 795 995.