Scammers are impersonating NBN staff, demanding payments in iTunes cards and other gift cards, for services that will never be connected. It's not a new scam but with the NBN in the news, criminals are using the infrastructure company as a cover to go after vulnerable people. Here are some simple tips you can pass on to family and friends that may be vulnerable.
The typical scam these criminals pay is to knock on the door of a place like a retirement village where there's a higher density of potential victims. The knock on the door, show a fake ID and then tell the resident that they need to make a payment, usually in cash or some other untraceable form like a gift card, in order for a new service to be connected.
In other cases, it all done over the phone. In my own neighbourhood recently, an elderly person was trying to activate several $50 iTunes cards at the local supermarket. Another local saw that the lady was in difficulty and offered to help. The scammer was on the victim's phone giving instructions on how to buy iTunes cards. The helpful local was onto the scam in a flash and provided the scammer with some biologically impossible advice on what they could do rather than rip people off.
The first thing to note is that NBN Co doesn't have a retail arm and don't sell services, except in some very limited situations, directly to customers. As ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a statement last year:
NBN will never phone you out of the blue to try to sign you up to a service over its network. NBN is a wholesaler meaning they don’t sell direct to the public. If you get an unsolicited call like this, it’s a big red flag that you’re dealing with a scammer.
Secondly, never let a stranger into your home, even if they look like they have legitimate ID. Some scammers will use the premise of being with NBN Co or some other service provider in order to determine whether you're a good target for a later burglary.
In one case affecting a friend recently, their elderly parents, who we should remember grew up and lived in an era where this kind of criminal activity was practically unheard of, let a "Telstra technician" into their house to "fix the internet". That repair job resulted in surveillance software being installed to their computer.
Finally, there's the "Windows Support" scam where someone phones you saying Microsoft has detected a problem with your computer and they need to remotely access your computer in order to fix the problem. While "fixing" things, they access your personal files and install spyware.
Scammers will use a combination of different techniques to infiltrate homes. Typically, that starts with finding the most likely victims - often older people - and then using fake ID or offical sounding titles like "Windows Support" to gain access to your home or computer.
NBN Co nor any other real business asks for payments using gift cards.
“Finally, if someone ever asks you to pay for a service using iTunes gift cards, it is 100 per cent a scam. Legitimate businesses, especially those like NBN, will never ask you to pay for anything in this way," said the ACCC's Rickard.
Most Lifehacker readers would be across these scams but it's a good idea to sit down and explain these kinds of scams to people you know who may be less understanding about the lengths today's criminals go to. If the person you're helping is a little forgetful, a simple note by the phone or door saying "People asking for gift cards are crooks" can be a any easy way to help.