In the last 12 months the ACCC has received 5,000 reports of fake billing scams with total 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,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“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.”
The bill could also tell the customer that the customer is owed a refund, or simply ask for the bill to be paid.
“Older Australians should particularly be wary of emails pretending to be from utility companies, with people over 65 reporting the most fake utility billing scam incidents,” Ms 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.”
NSW residents reported the most scams, with 1,779 reports. That’s compared to the 1,275 coming out of Queensland and the 1,245 from Victoria.
Western Australians reported 485 cases, while 462 reports came from South Australia, 132 from the ACT, 117 in Tasmania and 38 from the Northern Territory.
“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,” Ms Rickard said.
Continuing, she warned that customers who are duped into phoning a fake number may also be induced to give up personal information like dates of birth or drivers licence numbers.
The ACCC said customers should check with their provider if they receive an out-of-cycle or suspicious bill by going to contact details in past bills or the phone book.
If the victim isn’t even a client of the company, they should just delete the email and all recipients should avoid clicking any links or attachments as they may host malicious viruses.
Aussies were also reminded to never send money or share credit card details, online account details or personal information with people they don’t know or trust.