Double check your utility bills before making payment, is the advice from the ACCC, as the number of scams impersonating major suppliers in a bid to steal money soars.
The competition watchdog issued a statement warning that it has received 5,000 reports of fake bills over the last 12 months, with losses approaching $8,000.
“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,” the ACCC’s deputy chair, Delia Rickard, explained.
“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.”
Ms Rickard warned that the bogus bills have been sent as both emails and letters. In one instance, a Telstra customer was posted a fake overdue notice. Upon calling the number on the bill, the customer was asked to provide his driver’s licence number and date of birth to confirm his identity.
“If customers are duped into phoning scammers they will then attempt to steal as much personal information as they can,” Ms Rickard said.
While the ACCC received complaints of fake bills from every state and territory, the claims were concentrated in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
Of the almost 5,000 claims over the year, around a third (1,779) were from Australia’s most populous state, while Queensland and Victoria accounted for a further 1,275 and 1,245 claims, respectively.
There were also 485 claims received from WA residents, 462 from SA, 132 in the ACT, 117 in Tasmania and 38 from the top end.
“I advise consumers to contact their communications or energy provider directly via the company’s official channels to verify that the email or letter is actually from them,” Ms Rickard said.
“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.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.