Fake debt collector scams

11 June 2015 | Scammers can use the spectre of fake utility debts and threats to get your money.

Scammers threaten to disconnect services

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned that scammers are cold calling Australians, claiming to be collecting debts for energy and telecommunication providers or even government departments. To convince individuals and businesses to pay the "unpaid" fines or bills, they use the threat of disconnection to essential services, arrest or court actions.

If you get a call claiming you owe money:

  • do not provide any personal or financial details
  • contact your provider immediately using the phone number provided on your bills or on the website
  • report scams to the ACCC via SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995. 

To learn about other kinds of scams, check out our articles on tax scams and 12 online scams and how to avoid them.

What to do if your retailer threatens to disconnect you

Scammers are trying to cash in on a recent increase in the disconnection of energy services due to debts.

The disconnection of water, electricity and gas is not as easy as the scammers would like you to believe. If you're experiencing financial hardship, you have certain rights to assistance, and you can't just be disconnected for not paying your bill on time.

  • Contact your retailer, as they are required to offer you a payment plan.
  • See a financial counsellor – services are free for anyone in financial hardship. Call 1800 007 007 to go to Financial Counselling Australia to find a counsellor in your local area.
  • For more information check our report on your energy rights.

What to do if you're harassed by a (real) debt collector

If you are contacted by a real debt collector, it is important to know that coercion and harassment of any kind from businesses is prohibited by the Australian Consumer Law.

Debt collectors cannot use:

  • force, trespass or intimidation, such as the use or threat of physical force of any kind towards you
  • harassment, verbal abuse or overbearing behaviour, such as shouting at or verbally abusing you, or contacting you more than necessary or at unreasonable times
  • false or misleading statements or deceptive conduct, such as pretending to be or to act for a solicitor, court or government body
  • unfair and unconscionable conduct, such as taking advantage of you if you are not familiar with the law.

For more information on how to deal with debt collectors, see this guide by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission and the guideline for debt collectors.