Telco billing scams are on the rise in Australia again

Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images

Scammers impersonating energy and telecommunications with fake bills via email and mail appear to be on the rise in Australia with the ACCC Scamwatch receiving more than 5000 reports of people receiving the attempted scam over the past year.

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said the scammers have impersonated companies such as Origin, AGL, Telstra and Optus in a bid to convince people they’re genuine.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

People over 65 reported the majority of the fake utility bills and NSW topped the list with 1779 households reporting being on the receiving end of the scam, ahead of 1275 in Queensland and 1245 in Victoria. The other states and territories were also affected, but to a lesser extent.

In one case, a customer received a fake Telstra bill in the mail which claimed the account was overdue and immediate payment was needed. When he called the number provided 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,” Rickard said.

“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.

“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.”

Here are the ACCC’s other tips on how protect yourself from these scams:

If you receive a bill outside of your normal billing cycle, or don’t expect to receive an overdue notice, call your provider 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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