Mandurah store manager raises alarm over phone scam targeting seniors

A manager of a local grocery store has spoken out about his concerns seniors in Mandurah are falling for a phone scam in which criminals pretending to be from Centrelink ask them to buy hundreds of dollars worth of iTunes cards to avoid losing their pensions.

Ben Williams, from Woolworth’s Mandurah foreshore store, said two older people had each tried to buy $400 worth of the vouchers to mail to scammers on Monday.

But luckily he managed to convince both to go across the road to Centrelink before parting with their hard-earned cash.

“These people do make it sound very legitimate and they give you a reference number and a number to call,” Mr Williams said.

“Most older people are a little bit wary about losing their Centrelink payments.

“The one thing the last gentleman told me was that they are being informed not to mention that it’s a Centrelink payment, because Woolworths or Coles will put a fee on top for that, which is completely untrue so they’re not mentioning it to our checkout operators.”

Mr Williams said the scammers also pretended to be from other companies, such as Telstra.

“I had a Telstra one to the value of $600, that was probably a month ago, but after the two in one day, I thought I better contact someone to see if we can get the word out there,” he said.

“And $400 a go for pensioners is a lot of money.

“I’d hate for it to happen to my grandparents or even my parents, or anyone.”

Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard warned Mandurah residents about the phone scammers, who are usually from overseas, and highlighted the new trend of victims paying the scammers with iTunes gift cards.

“We realise a lot of people will be surprised to hear that a scam victim thinks you can pay with iTunes gift cards but I’d ask you to just take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of a person who is perhaps not tech savvy, lacks knowledge of modern payment methods and whose gut reaction is to comply with requests from anyone in a position of authority,” he said.

He said residents who received urgent, aggressive calls threatening arrest or legal action should not be afraid, but instead should call Consumer Protection’s ScamNet on 1300 30 40 54.