The Federal Government is warning people to be wary of a new Nigerian-like scam where victims are asked to transfer money to someone claiming to be a Centrelink employee.
Minister for Human Services Tanya Plibersek today said several recent reports have emerged of customers being asked to transfer several hundred dollars to an account in India in order to facilitate a substantial return payment.
“We have received several reports of people making phone calls claiming customers will receive a large Centrelink payment when they transfer several hundred dollars to a designated bank account,” said MsPlibersek.
“People should be aware that claims made by callers of large sums of money being available in exchange for payments are a scam and they should not cooperate.”
“Centrelink never asks its customers to transfer funds and I urge people not to send money to anyone they don’t know.”
Ms Pliberseksaid recent months reports of people being targeted by scammers purporting to be Centrelink workers have occurred in West Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland.
The most recent report of the scam occurred in West Australia when a man was asked to transfer $300 to India in return for $3,000. In another recent call an elderly Queenslander was asked to send $800 through Western Union in return for $3,000.
The scam is similar to the so-called “Nigerian 419 scam” where people are contacted by email or letter and asked to transfer money to assist in the release of funds for a substantial “reward.”
“Unscrupulous people who perpetrate scams often target the most vulnerable in the community such as the elderly and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.”
“I urge anyone who suspects they have received a scam phone call to make a note of the details including the time and date of the call, the gender and accent of the caller and what the caller said.”
MsPliberseksaid people who received such calls should report them to the Australian Government’s fraud tip-off line on 13 15 24.
Information about scams can also be found at www.scamwatch.gov.au
Minister for Human Services Tanya Plibersek today reminded couples and families who are likely to need a significant amount of out-of-hospital medical care this year to ensure they are registered for the Medicare Safety Net.
The Medicare Safety Net is a rebate paid to individuals and families whose out-of-pocket costs for out-of-hospital medical services reach a threshold in a calendar year.
While Medicare automatically recognises individuals who reach their threshold, couples and families are required to register so that Medicare can add the cost of their medical services together.
Once reaching a threshold, families and individuals may receive higher Medicare rebates.
Under the benefit, people usually receive a rebate of 80% of their out-of-pocket cost, which is difference between the standard Medicare benefit for a service and what a medical practitioner charges.
For example, if you reach a threshold and then are charged $66 for a standard doctor consultation you would receive back $34.90 for the standard Medicare benefit and then 80% of the remaining $31.10. In this case, the consultation would cost you $6.20 in out-of-pocket expense.
Families and couples can register for the safety net by filling out an online form at www.medicareaustralia.gov.au, calling 132 011 or visiting a Medicare office.
Medicare will contact individuals and families nearing a safety net threshold or people can check if they are nearing a threshold by visiting the website. A full list of thresholds, which vary according to personal circumstances, is also available on the website.
The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) signals increased support for Australian apprentices as the Gillard Government continues to invest in the skills needed for a strengthening economy.
From 1 January 2011, trade apprentices working in ‘skill shortage occupations’ will receive additional tax exempt bonuses of up to $1700 as they reach milestones during their training.
“This additional bonus brings to $5500 the total tax free Tools For Your Trade Payment provided to trade apprentices in skills shortage occupations,” Senator Evans said.
“It will support 200,000 trade apprentices at a cost of $281 million over four years.”
Funding is also being provided for a national mentoring program to encourage more apprentices to complete their training.
“The Government is committed to working with industry to meet emerging skills needs in the economy and equipping young Australians to take advantage of opportunities arising from the strengthening economy,” Senator Evans said.
“The Gillard Government is providing practical help to ensure Australians get the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.”
The strengthening economy has resulted in reduced demand for the retraining of retrenched workers. This allowed the Government to redirect $55 million from the Productivity Places Program, in line with the need to find savings across the budget. The Government is also providing a further $25 million over two years to support the operation of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Assurance Fund.
"It is clear that a number of Australian international education providers will be under pressure in 2011 from a range of factors, not the least of which is the high value of the Australian dollar," said Senator Evans.
“The Fund will protect the interests of current and future overseas students of registered providers.
“It will ensure students are provided with suitable alternative courses, or have their course monies refunded, if the provider cannot provide the course the student has paid for.
“It is critical that Australia maintain its reputation as a quality education provider and this Fund will offer reassurance to overseas students.”
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler today acknowledged Australia’s 2.9 million carers, for their selfless efforts to care for a loved one who would otherwise need formal care.
At the launch of Carers Week at Old Parliament House today, Mr Butler also welcomed a new report that found the economic value of informal care is estimated to be more $40 billion per year, 33 per cent higher than in 2005.
The Access Economics report produced for Carers Australia, The Economic Value of Informal Care in 2010 revealed the level of Government support, both through welfare support payments and service provision, has increased over the past few years.
“Today around one in eight Australians, or 2.9 million people, are providing informal care to a vulnerable person, with 540,000 people taking on the significant responsibilities as the main carer,” Mr Butler said.
“Carers Week gives us an opportunity to celebrate the efforts of these wonderful people and to let them know we appreciate what they do each and every day.
“Carers come from all age groups, cultural backgrounds and locations. This diversity is celebrated in the theme for this year’s Carers Week, which is ‘Anyone, Anytime’.
The point is that any of us could become a carer if circumstances out of our control were to change and a loved one needed our help.”
Mr Butler said the Gillard Government is committed to better recognising and supporting the nation’s carers.
“We are leading the development of Australia’s first ever National Carer Recognition Framework which will include National Carer Recognition Legislation and a National Carer Strategy that will lead to improved support and services for Australia's family carers.
“The Gillard Government also has many programs in place for carers to take advantage of, including financial support through the improved Carer Payment and Carer Supplement, and respite care through the National Respite for Carers Program.”
Carers Week activities have been planned across Australia to promote and raise awareness of the valuable role that carers play in our society. For more information, see http://www.carersweek.com.au/10/events.html.
For information on respite care services that are available to carers, contact your nearest Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre by calling 1800 052 222.