Community First is urging residents in flood-impacted communities to be on the lookout for scammers posing as government employees, insurers or charity groups working hard to restore impacted communities. 

Crisis and rebate scammers deploy various tactics to take advantage of people in vulnerable circumstances, says Leanne Vale, Director of Services and Financial Crimes for the Customer Owned Banking Association.

According to the Insurance Council of Australia, more than 5,000 insurance claims were lodged over the weekend, with insurers aiming to fast-track the processing of claims for flood-impacted policyholders.

“Brazen scammers will not hesitate to pose as policyholders and intercept cash payments through fraudulent emails and SMS.

“With this natural disaster impacting densely populated areas in NSW and Queensland, we may well see a higher number of insurance claims and requests for government assistance than the 2020 bushfires.

“Scammers will closely follow this disaster and target payments that are essential to recovery, whether funding temporary accommodation, replacing essential items, or rebuilding homes.”  

“It’s important to remember that government departments will never randomly phone or send text messages to initiate a benefit claim,” says Mrs Vale.

“Cut and pasting government department icons, brands and imitating email and SMS are all tactics from the scammers playbook.”

The amount lost to rebate scams is also on the rise. In December 2020, ACCC’s Scamwatch recorded a 300% increase from the previous year.

Community First provides the following advice:

  • Be wary of all approaches you did not initiate, especially if you are asked to send money online.

  • Confirm the identity of the contact by calling the organisation directly. Don’t feel pressured to respond to the contact if you’re not 100% sure. 

  • Do not disclose personal information in a phone call, such as sharing your bank account screen, reading out passwords, or providing login details to MyGov.

  • Trusted organisations will not ask for an upfront payment to process recovery payments. Requests from Services Australia and government departments can be verified with a call to special hotlines made available on their websites.

  • Consider your local post office. When internet services are disrupted, print and post with your post office is a trusted option.

  • Only donate to legitimate registered official charities. Verify the charity through the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commissions website.

  • Lookout for sham emails, websites, text messages and phone numbers.

Last updated: 16 April 2021

The information contained in this article is only correct at the point of time of publication. It is general information and has been prepared without taking into account your personal circumstances, objectives or needs. Please consider if this information is right for you before making a decision to acquire any product.