Criminals are targeting Maitland residents in an elaborate phone scam that has been making its way up the state’s coast.
Maitland police station was flooded with calls on Thursday about fraudulent phone conversations in which the scammers claimed they were from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions or Australian Tax Office.
“We have taken a number of calls at the station,” Central Hunter acting crime manager Acting Detective Inspector Mitch Dubojski said.
“Residents have been contacted by a male claiming to be from the tax office.
“He was advising people that there is a warrant out for their arrest in 24 hours unless they pay a substantial amount of money.”
The fraudster then gives people a NSW or Victoria phone number to call to pay the money, but Maitland residents are being warned not to hand over any personal details.
“The ATO do not contact people by telephone,” Inspector Dubojski said
“People should notify police as soon as they can and report the calls.”
Residents have been asked to take down the phone number of the caller and include it in the information they give police.
One of the scam telephone numbers provided is 02 6100 3027.
The scam has targeted both mobile and landline numbers.
SCAMwatch, which is investigating the issue, reported that messages had been recorded on residents’ answering machines asking them to call back later.
The scam call was left as a voicemail message on Ashtonfield resident Debbie Edmunds answering service.
“I had seen a few friend’s posts on Facebook about the scam, so as soon as I heard ‘the tax office’ I knew," she said.
“The message was quite intimidating and very formal.
“I think if you were gullible or worried about getting into trouble you would call back.”
The scammers might spin a range of stories about why an arrest warrant has been issued, including that the resident has failed to pay taxes.
Scammers typically ask for money to be sent via wire transfer as it is nearly impossible to recover money sent this way.
They may also ask for a person’s financial and other personal details to access their money and use this information to commit other scams.
Anyone who has received a call is encouraged to contact SCAMwatch by calling 1300 795 995 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
How to protect yourself against scams
- If you receive a phone call or email out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions or Australian Taxation Office telling you about an arrest warrant, hang up.
- If you have any doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a government department, contact the body directly.
- Don’t rely on numbers, email addresses or websites provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
- Never send any money via wire transfer to anyone you do not know and trust.
- Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
- If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.