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Natural disasters

Natural disasters

A black burnt tree in the middle of a bush fire, the rest of the image is completely engulfed in fire.

Hearing about bushfires, floods, cyclones or earthquakes makes most of us want to give but for scammers it’s an opportunity to take.

Recent natural disasters have shown how quickly email and SMS scams will be generated to try and capitalise on people’s willingness to donate money to victims.

After the Queensland and Carnarvon floods and the Lake Clifton bushfires, came a bogus SMS declaring: “Centrelink has processed your Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment. Payment will be made to your account within 48 hours”.

Fraudulent texts and phone calls suggested that Centrelink payments had been made in error and gave instructions to return the money. People were also asked for secure personal details like their bank account numbers and property address.

Government organisations will never randomly phone or send text messages to initiate a benefit claim. Centrelink issued a scam warning in relation to this hoax.

In a separate scam, an email falsely claiming to be from the Queensland Premier’s official flood relief appeal, and requesting donations via wire transfer, was sent to a number of WA businesses.

The bogus email, titled ‘Flood Waters in Rockhampton’, was sent from a non-government account with information copied and pasted directly from the Queensland Premier’s site.
The email was from a Yahoo 7 mail account rather than qld.gov.au and it asked for wire transfer donations, which is not a payment method accepted by the Queensland Premier’s official disaster relief appeal.

WA ScamNet advises that you only deal with official charities when making donations to disaster relief appeals. This is to ensure that money reaches the rightful victims.
Beware of fake emails, websites, text messages and phone numbers. In fact be guarded about any approaches which you did not initiate, especially if you are asked to wire transfer donations.

It is worth noting that anyone collecting money or fundraising in Western Australia must be authorised to act for a registered charity.

You can call Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 to verify the authenticity of a charity, or view a register of licensed charities at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/charities.