Illawarra residents warned over scammer

NSW Fair Trading has urged Illawarra residents not to fall for a phone scam from a bogus government department offering refunds on bank fees or excess taxes.

Ron Hales, of Figtree, received a call on Tuesday from a man claiming to be from the Australian Government Reclaim Department - a department that does not exist.

Mr Hales was told an overseas solicitor had found he was owed a $5284 refund from tax payments and bank charges.

"I thought it was dodgy from the start, because I do virtually zero business with banks," Mr Hales said.

He was asked to call a man called Chris Jenkins at the reclaim department, who asked Mr Hales to send $199 through Western Union to cover the lawyer's fees.

"He told me to go to the post office and then ring him on my mobile so he could give me the transfer details when I got there," Mr Hales said.

Mr Hales then contacted the office of Cunningham MP Sharon Bird, which confirmed several local residents had been called with a similar scam.

A NSW Fair Trading spokesman said a government department would never directly cold-call somebody about such an issue, but would instead send official correspondence.

"The bank refund scam is a constant scourge.

"These scams are never-ending and we recommend people hang up the phone immediately and report it to us," the spokesman said.

"No government department would call and offer you money. It's definitely a furphy."

Fair Trading has been aware of the scam for some time, with identical methods reported in October and November 2013 as cold-callers offered refunds of $5000 to be released after payment of a $199 fee.

The scam has been known to the ACCC's Scam Watch website as far back as 2011.

Anyone receiving such phone calls is encouraged to contact NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

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