Local scams

Warning taken from Consumer Affairs, Victoria


Several people have contacted the Centre recently for advice after door-to-door salespeople have changed their gas or electricity provider without them signing anything. The first they know about this is when they receive a final bill from their current provider. This practice is becoming widespread in this local area so DO NOT show the salesperson your last bill when they want to compare prices. At present all they need to know is the name of the your current company and the account holders name. They just tick a box and you have changed providers.

Contact Consumer Affairs through their website www.consumer.vic.gov.au or phone 1300 558 181 if you think a salesperson or telemarketer is breaking the law.

Know your legal rights. You have up to 10 business days to contact the new company and cancel the contract if you change your mind.

Gas and electricity providers
(Information taken from Consumer Affairs, Victoria)

A few salespeople appear to be misleading local residents about changing your electricity and/or gas company.

Government owned companies: A salesperson may try to give you the impression they are from the government.

Be alert! This is not true. The Victorian Government does not own any energy retail companies.

You must change your provider: They tell you the company they represent is taking over the electricity/gas supply in your area and you must change - you have no choice.

Be alert! This is not true. You can choose a different provider than your neighbours. You have to agree to let them change your gas or electricity company.

Nothing will change: The salesperson will tell you the new company has the same prices as the one you have now.

Be alert! This may not be true. You may have to pay exit fees to your current provider. You may also have to pay a different rate (possibly more) for your electricity and gas.

Ask your current provider whether you have to pay exit fees if you change companies.

Don't decide anything on the spot if you are unsure or they put you under pressure. Tell them you want to 'shop around' first and compare information from several companies.

Builders and tradesmen

Homeowners beware: check contractors' credentials before you hand over deposits for fencing, decking or other home improvements.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is investigating complaints about dodgy operators in the area who:

  • take your deposit but do not return to do the job

  • demand more deposit than is allowed by Victoria's building laws

  • claim to be members of industry associations when they are not.

In one case, a fencing contractor's advertisement included an industry association logo, when they were not members of this association and did not have approval to use the logo.

Before agreeing to any work or handing over money, we recommend you:

  • compare at least three quotes from different contractors for the same work

  • ask for and check references

  • confirm membership if the contractor claims to belong to any industry association

  • do not pay more than 10 per cent deposit for work costing less than $20,000. For contracts costing $20,000 or more, deposits must not exceed five per cent of the total contract price

  • check the contractor is registered for work costing more than $5000.

You can use the Building Commission's online practitioner search to do this.

Unsolicited calls to help fix your computer

Many local people have received calls from people claiming to be from Microsoft. Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Do not provide any personal information.

In this scam someone will call and claim to be from Microsoft Tech Support or Computer Management Department. They tell you your computer has problems and offer to help solve these. They ask you to open your Computer Management/System Tools/Event Viewer and view the logs. Most computers have random warning or error messages logged here and there is no cause for you to be alarmed. Once they have gained your trust, they offer to fix your problem for a credit card fee. They may also damage your computer with malware (viruses and spyware) and empty your bank accounts. If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming your computer has problems, hang up immediately. Microsoft will never phone you.

Bank fee class action phone offer

Scammers are targeting residents with the promise of thousands of dollars owed to them by an upcoming bank fee class action.

Con artists saying they are from a "reclaim specialist" business are calling residents claiming to represent a bank or government department and offering you a large refund for overcharged bank fees. They ask you to pay the 'tax' of several hundred dollars via Western Union transfer so this money can be released to you. Consumer Affairs Victoria urges people contacted with this bogus offer to ignore it as banks and other institutions never require payment before they release money.

Unsolicited Phone Calls

Australian Government Do Not Call Register Stop junk mail and telemarketing phone calls to your home. Go to www.donotcall.gov.au

The Do Not Call Register does not cover unsolicited SMS or MMS (picture) messages sent to mobile phones (See below).

Mobile Phone Spam and Scams

The Do Not Call Register does not cover unsolicited SMS or MMS (picture) messages sent to mobile phones. This is covered by the Spam Act 2003. Complaints can be submitted at www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/spam-report-spam

How to report spam SMS messages
Forward the message to the Spam SMS service on 0429 999 888 (You will be billed the standard rate charged by your mobile phone provider for sending an SMS message)

Taken from the ACMA website: The ACMA is receiving a high number of reports from consumers who have received multiple SMS ‘lottery spam’ messages. These messages are sent in quick succession.

Messages recently reported include:

CONGRATULATION! YOUR MOBILE NUMBER HAS WON FOR YOU $2,000,000USD IN THE FREELOTTO MOBILE DRAW.TO CLAIM,SEND YOUR NAME & MOBILE NUMBER TO: freeukdraw@aol.co.uk Your Mobile Number won 750,000 GBP in the World Mobile Promo..Claim Code: WMP1. For claimemail:WMPO001@gmail.com

These messages often purport to be associated with major mobile phone brands, to give the message more credibility. Obviously, this is not the case.

Lottery and competition scams are delivered in many ways – in person, over the telephone, through the post or by email. The scammer may tell you that you’ve won something substantial (such as a large sum of money or a great prize) and that all you have to do is send money to claim your prize. Rather than winning a prize, you could lose a lot of money.

Mobile Phone App Scam

Before you install a new App on your phone you can check it is the genuine version by searching for it on the developer's website.

Make sure the App is not asking for permissions that it doesn't need. A normal game usually won’t ask for your permission to send SMS messages. This is an increasingly common scam; the game will send SMS messages to premium phone numbers to collect income.

Facebook Scam

"LAST WARNING: Your account is considered to violated the policies that are considered annoying or insulting to Facebook users.''

The scam is said to mimic Facebook's security procedures and gets users to hand over passwords with an email warning users their account will be deleted.

The following information was published on news.com.au

A FACEBOOK scam, dubbed the cleverest yet, gets users to provide their passwords and financial details by accusing them of violating the site's policy and threatens to delete their account.

Experts said the recent assault designed to steal users' Facebook details is among the most sophisticated yet because it mimics the security procedures that sites use to defend against internet trolls and other bad behaviour online.

The scam comes in an email accusing the user of insulting or annoying another Facebook user and saying their account will be deleted in 24 hours. The email requires Facebook login details and, for "authentication'' purposes, parts of a person's credit card details.

The email links to a fake account disabled page that asks for personal details, including credit card information. The access to login details helps the scam travel farther and faster by sending it to new users from trusted friends.

"The emails are entirely bogus,'' internet security experts Sophos said.

"They are not coming from Facebook. Social media venues would not request financial information, nor would they request login details. "With the credit card information, fraudsters can conduct identity theft and other malicious financial activity.''

The Ombudsman Contact information for industry, Victorian and Commonwealth Government Ombudsmen including addresses, phone numbers and websites.

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