Scam alert for Australian home owners
Home owners are being warned to look out for scammers cold calling pretending to sell green products, or even giving them for free thanks to so called “rebates” in an effort to obtain funds or individuals’ bank account information.
The alert comes after earlier this month home owners in northern Victoria received phone calls offering to give away free solar panels thanks to their properties supposedly being rezoned by the local council.
The phone calls, which appeared to owners as though they were backed by the council and the Victorian state government, contained automated messages that asked the home owner to dial in certain numbers to move to the next point.
The pre-recorded message also allegedly claimed property owners would save over $1400 a year in electricity bills, and then asked for their bank information or credit card number.
The City of Wangaratta Mayor Cr Anthony Griffiths has alerted home owners in other areas of Australia to be on the watch for similar calls.
“The advice from the other government departments said that there had been other cases in other states, they didn’t actually say where, but it didn’t look like that we were the only case,” he says.
Griffiths became alerted of the scammers after ratepayers began calling in asking if their properties had been rezoned.
“People were telling me ‘well hang on, how can we be rezoned, we haven’t been told?’” he says.
“There was a reason why they hadn’t had any notification, it was completely fraudulent.”
Griffiths thinks his local area may have been targeted as several councils in the region have come together in a group-buying operation for solar panels to offer ratepayers discounts.
“[Perhaps] the scammers decided to piggyback on that media, that’s the main reason we were targeted,” Griffiths says.
Although he does not know of anyone that has fallen for the scam by the fraudsters, Griffiths says there’s still instances of scattered cases of the calls coming in.
A Victorian Government spokesman says there is no “widespread problem”, however, admits it is hard to know if anyone has been conned by the scam.
“It’s often the case in these incidents that people are embarrassed to come forward if they’ve lost money to scams, that’s generally the case across the board with scams, so there is in fact, we believe, significant underreporting of this sort of thing,” the spokesman says.
“There’s no epidemic of it but that doesn’t mean it’s not occurring elsewhere and our Consumer Affairs people are keeping a very close eye on it.
“Wherever there’s new technology and claimed cost savings, there are also swindlers out to make a quick buck. So with things like renewable energy, solar panels, water efficiency and so forth, there are, in all those areas … instances of people trying to scam [others].”
For ways to spot a scam and avoid it, see SCAMwatch, a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
About Jhai Mitchell
Jhai is an award winning Internet Marketing Real Estate Agent for Elders Toongabbie and Kings Langley. After running his own internet marketing business he has now set his own sites for the real estate industry. He observed that 90% of real estate agents did not know how to market themselves online. Jhai is now fixed on one goal. To teach real estate agents that they can market online so much better than they currently are.
Since then he has been consistently quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald and Real Estate Business online. He is a regular guest blogger on TheHomePage.com.au, sharing his expertise of marketing aspects for the Real Estate Industry. His biggest passions are his wife, martial arts, dogs and most of all property.