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Threat and Penalty Scams

If a government authority or trusted company is telling you to pay up, stop, think and double-check.

How the scam works
Instead of offering a prize, money or rebate, these scams use threats designed to frighten you into handling over your money. The scammer may call you and threaten you with arrest or send you an email claiming you owe money for a speeding fine, a tax office debt or an unpaid bill.

During the phone call, scammers will pressure you into paying immediately and tell you the police will be sent to your house if you refuse. Scammers have been known to target vunerable people in our community, such as newly arrived migrants. They pretend to be Immigration Department officials and threaten victims with deportation unless fees are paid to correct errors in their visas. A very similar scam involves the scammer pretending to be from the Australian Tax Office telling their victims they have an outstanding tax bill.

Scammers also pretend to be trusted companies such as your bank, gas, electricity, water or phone provider. They will threaten to cancel your service or charge you excessive penalty fees if you dont pay the bill immediately. Sometimes they may impersonate a business like Australia Post stating you have an item to pick up or you will be charged a holding fee every day you dont pay. Whatever the case, they try to make you worried and act without stopping to think and check that the story is true.

If the scam is sent by email, it is likely to include an attachment or link to a fake website where you will be asked to download proof of the 'bill', 'fine' or 'delivery details'. Opening the attachment or downloading the file will result in infecting your computer with malware.

Protect yourself
- Dont be pressured by a threatening caller. Stop, think and check whether their story is true.
- A government agency or trusted company will never ask you to pay by unusual methods such as by gift card, wire transfers or Bitcoins.
- Verify the identity of the contact by calling the relevant organisation directly - find them through an independent source such as a phone book, past bill or online search.
- Do not use the contact details provided in emails or given to you during phone calls. Again, find them through an independent source.

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