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Australia Queensland.Toowoomba mother fights Centrelink after identity fraud

A TOOWOOMBA single mum of three wants to know how it was possible to have her Centrelink accounts hacked twice and why she can’t get her money back.

Kristy Harper, 27, said her problems with Centrelink began back in September last year when she didn’t receive her family payments.


Her online account had been hacked and payments were redirected a different bank account.

In response to the hacking, Centrelink stopped all access to that online account and informed her that if she needed to change anything related to her account, she needed to ring up and use the voice recognition software or go in face-to-face.

Then, in late October, Centrelink called to ask why she hadn’t disclosed her tax returns.

Ms Harper was baffled as she hadn’t filed any returns.

It was then she learnt that three tax statements had been lodged in her name, amounting to $8500 in returns.

Once she’d proved that it wasn’t her who’d lodged the returns – she didn’t even have a MyGov account set up for herself – the Australian Tax Office wiped them from her history.

Life went on for Ms Harper and she stopped using online accounts.

But on July 12, there was a striking coincidence: While visiting her bank, someone attempted to hack her account.

“When I was standing in the branch in Toowoomba, notes came up on my file that I had just rung the branch up at Clifford Gardens and told the bank that they were me, giving all my details answering all my questions and said that I had lost my key cards, wallet and mobile phone,” she said.

“Lucky I was standing in the other bank because they tried to take my pay again.

“So the bank put a stop on all my accounts and made it so all contact had to be face-to-face at the one bank so they knew it was me.”

Ms Harper was due for her payments from Centrelink the day after on July 13, however when she tried to withdraw the funds, they weren’t there.

She discovered her Centrelink payments had been sent to another bank account again.

She said questioned how this had happened with the security locks that had already been put on her account after the last incident, only to find that someone had circumvented the voice recognition software and changed her bank account details again.

“It’s been a month later and I still haven’t got anywhere with getting my kids money. I have been sent on a roller coaster ride,” she said.

Ms Harper says her attempts to resolve the matter so far have failed.

“It’s a scary world and to think people steal other people’s identity is a terrifying thing to feel and have happen,” she said.


A Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the department was aware of Ms Harper’s matter.

“Any allegations of unauthorised access and identity fraud are taken very seriously and investigated,” the spokesperson said.

“The department is committed to online security and has robust systems in place to protect people’s personal information and routinely subject our online services to independent security testing.

“The department’s phone voice recognition (VoicePrint) software is very secure and a recipient has to be authenticated to use it.

“Anyone who believes their account may have been accessed by another person should contact the department and consider reporting it either to police of through the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), which can be accessed via the Online Security page on our website.

“People should also contact their bank, who can stop a money transfer, investigate fraudulent transactions and issue replacement identity documents.”

  • Centrelink strongly encourage people to keep their login details secure and not share their passwords with anyone.
  • Changing passwords regularly can also help protect people against unauthorised access. There are more online security tips at
  • People can also contact, Australia’s national identity support service specialising in assisting people whose identity information has been put at risk (physical or online).
  • People can call the IDCARE Hotline is 1300 432 273, 8am – 5pm (AEDT), Monday to Friday, complete a Support Request Form or email
  • Henry Sapiecha

Watch out for new Telstra phone service provider scam in Queensland Australia

IF YOU are a Telstra customer and receive an email stating you’re entitled to a refund – delete it immediately.

There have been reports in Qld Australia of an email which claims customers have been charged twice by the phone service provider due to a system error. Sample screen shot telstra scam demand below



Henry Sapiecha

Losses from reported Australian hacking victims quadrupled in 2016: ACCC


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has reported a four-fold increase in hacking scams, with AU$2.9 million lost to such activity in 2016, up from AU$700,000 in 2015.

According to Targeting scams: Report of the ACCC on scams activity 2016, businesses bore the brunt of these scams, with over half — AU$1.7 million — being attributed to businesses.

“While the digital economy presents many opportunities and efficiencies for businesses, it also presents significant risks,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says in the report’s foreword.

“Scams targeting businesses are becoming increasingly sophisticated using modern technology to make fake emails, invoices and websites appear legitimate to even the astute business person.”

While the digital age is hitting businesses in Australia, the report [PDF] highlights that consumers are also being affected by scammers, with digitisation providing the opportunity for scammers to try new tricks.

Online scams — those executed via the internet, email, social networks, and mobile apps — outnumbered phone-based scams in 2016, with an increase of 130 percent over 2015.

Elsewhere in the report, losses to online scams accounted for 58 percent — AU$48.4 million — of total losses, while social media was a particularly busy platform used by scammers to lure victims, netting losses of AU$9.5 million in 2016 compared with AU$3.8 million in 2015.

Of the social media scams, the most prevalent were related to online dating and sextortion, a form of blackmail in which compromising images of the victim are used to extort money.



The Australian Taxation Office has been targeted more than 11,000 times by identity fraudsters attempting to steal tax refunds in the 2014-2015 financial year.

And a help-service for victims of identity crime says it is being inundated with taxpayers whose IDs have been hijacked and their tax returns robbed.

ato sign on building image

The ATO recorded 91,000 “revenue fraud incidents” in 2014-15. Photo: Louie Douvis

The 11,000 attempts at ID fraud are part of the wider picture of 91,000 “revenue fraud incidents” recorded on the ATO’s systems in 2014-2015.

Only the efforts that were detected and foiled are recorded, according to the agency, with the full extent of successful frauds unclear.

But iDcare, a service that helps victims rebuild their identities after they have been stolen, says the volume of calls for help it is currently receiving indicates that criminals are reaping a tax-time bonanza from unsuspecting taxpayers.

Managing director Dave Lacey said his staff had dealt with at least 400 cases this financial year involving tax refund theft.

He said taxpayer money was being lost as the ATO’s process was typically to determine an initial refund was fraudulent and then reissue the funds to the victim.

“We’re in tax fraud season at the moment. It’s organised crime. It’s big business. This has been going on for months now,” he said.

Mr Lacey said the biggest impact on victims was often not the initial financial loss but the effect identity theft had on their mental health, with one in five – almost one in four – requiring ongoing mental health support.

He said this was largely because of how victims were treated by government agencies and organisations when they tried to follow up on the fraud, seek answers for how it occurred and re-establish themselves.

“We test these things continuously and regrettably the standards are very low,” Mr Lacey said.

Fairfax Media revealed last week that sophisticated cyber-crims had managed to penetrate employers’ payroll systems, making off with detailed information on unsuspecting workers and using the data to lodge bogus tax returns.

Other victims have told how their legitimate tax refunds had been siphoned off into bank accounts operated by the fraudsters after fake MyGov profiles had been built by the thieves.

The ATO says it stopped about $9 million in refunds going out in 2014-2015 after finding they had been fraudulently claimed and the previous year the figure was even higher, with $17 million prevented from being paid amid 18,000 attempts at ID fraud.

Victims have complained about a lack of police follow-up, but an ATO spokeswoman said the agency had its own investigators who teamed up with the Australian Federal Police when frontline police powers were needed.

“The ATO maintains a criminal investigation capability that investigates significant tax crime matters, which includes identity crime enabled refund fraud and refers briefs of evidence to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration and prosecution,” the spokeswoman said.

“The AFP executes search warrants in support of ATO investigations and the ATO refers matters to the AFP for investigation when AFP capabilities are required.”

tax fraud victim image

ATO tax fraud scam

Paul Francisco has had his tax refund stolen by fraudsters two years in a row. The ATO have been unable to address the problem and to make matters worse they have sent him a request for payment of tax debt.

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Henry Sapiecha