NSW Fair Trading is warning consumers about scammers and training marketers posing as government officials to get residents to hand over their personal information. Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said NSW Fair Trading had received reports from consumers in Yeoval following an approach from two men offering free computers when the consumer signed up to free computer lessons.
“A Yeoval family were visited by two men telling them they were eligible for a free computer and lessons as part of a government program for people who earn less than $50,000,” he said. “They took photos of the consumer’s driver’s licence, birth certificate and details of her tax file number and the consumers haven’t received any follow up or any free computer.” A similar scam has been identified in Wagga Wagga, where a consumer was approached by two men offering a free lap top if the consumer signed up for a training course. “The consumer not only signed a contract but allowed the men to photograph her birth certificate and tax file number,” Mr Stowe said. “The consumer was not given a copy of any of the paperwork she signed.”
Mr Stowe said that in some cases consumers have been signed up to expensive student loans. “Consumers who signed up said they were not always aware they were signing up for a Commonwealth Government VET FEE-HELP loan in their name or they were told they wouldn’t need to repay the loan,” he said. Fair Trading has received reports that there may be five groups of men visiting consumers and promoting this scam in the Wagga Wagga area. Fair Trading has received similar reports from Dubbo, Walgett, Bourke, Taree, Kempsey, Newcastle and Bankstown in Sydney.
Those reports identify different people asking consumers for their personal details, including their tax file number, to sign them up to training courses and VET FEE-HELP student loans. Mr Stowe said scammers often pretended to be government officials in an attempt to sound credible. “Fraudsters will use all kinds of creative means to steal people’s identities and access funds but if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is,” he said. “Be vigilant around identity theft and fraudsters impersonating government department officials and trying to obtain your personal information. “Never give out personal or financial details. If in doubt, verify the legitimacy of any visits, calls or emails. Always look up phone numbers in an independent directory. “Don’t be tempted by incentives like cash, vouchers, iPads or laptops unless you intend to complete the training course. “
The marketers have sometimes used references to the Australian Taxation Office and TAFE NSW to appear more credible. “Check for other training providers such as TAFE NSW offering the same course online or face-to-face, often for a much cheaper price and often with VET FEE-HELP loans still available.”
NSW Fair Trading is leading a national compliance project focused on training providers. The project involves monitoring and compliance activities as well as education for consumers and traders about their rights and responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law. Where there is sufficient evidence of non-compliance by training marketers, Fair Trading will investigate with a view to enforcement action. Training providers could face civil or criminal penalties of up to $1.1 million for corporations and $220,000 for individuals, as well as damages for affected consumers. To report a scam or complaint about a Training Provider, call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or go towww.scamwatch.gov.au. For more information about enrolling in education and training, visit the ‘Education and training’ page atwww.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.
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