Toowoomba mum fights Centrelink after identity fraud

A TOOWOOMBA single mum of three wants to know how it was possible to have her Centrelink accounts hacked twice and why she can't get her money back.

Kristy Harper, 27, said her problems with Centrelink began back in September last year when she didn't receive her family payments.

Her online account had been hacked and payments were redirected a different bank account.

In response to the hacking, Centrelink stopped all access to that online account and informed her that if she needed to change anything related to her account, she needed to ring up and use the voice recognition software or go in face-to-face.

Then, in late October, Centrelink called to ask why she hadn't disclosed her tax returns.

Ms Harper was baffled as she hadn't filed any returns.

It was then she learnt that three tax statements had been lodged in her name, amounting to $8500 in returns.

Once she'd proved that it wasn't her who'd lodged the returns - she didn't even have a MyGov account set up for herself - the Australian Tax Office wiped them from her history.

Life went on for Ms Harper and she stopped using online accounts.

But on July 12, there was a striking coincidence: While visiting her bank, someone attempted to hack her account.

"When I was standing in the branch in Toowoomba, notes came up on my file that I had just rung the branch up at Clifford Gardens and told the bank that they were me, giving all my details answering all my questions and said that I had lost my key cards, wallet and mobile phone," she said.

"Lucky I was standing in the other bank because they tried to take my pay again.

"So the bank put a stop on all my accounts and made it so all contact had to be face-to-face at the one bank so they knew it was me."

Ms Harper was due for her payments from Centrelink the day after on July 13, however when she tried to withdraw the funds, they weren't there.

She discovered her Centrelink payments had been sent to another bank account again.

She said questioned how this had happened with the security locks that had already been put on her account after the last incident, only to find that someone had circumvented the voice recognition software and changed her bank account details again. 

"It's been a month later and I still haven't got anywhere with getting my kids money. I have been sent on a roller coaster ride," she said.

Ms Harper says her attempts to resolve the matter so far have failed.

"It's a scary world and to think people steal other people's identity is a terrifying thing to feel and have happen," she said.

A Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the department was aware of Ms Harper's matter.

"Any allegations of unauthorised access and identity fraud are taken very seriously and investigated," the spokesperson said.

"The department is committed to online security and has robust systems in place to protect people's personal information and routinely subject our online services to independent security testing.

"The department's phone voice recognition (VoicePrint) software is very secure and a recipient has to be authenticated to use it.

"Anyone who believes their account may have been accessed by another person should contact the department and consider reporting it either to police of through the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), which can be accessed via the Online Security page on our website.

"People should also contact their bank, who can stop a money transfer, investigate fraudulent transactions and issue replacement identity documents."

  • Centrelink strongly encourage people to keep their login details secure and not share their passwords with anyone.
  • Changing passwords regularly can also help protect people against unauthorised access. There are more online security tips at humanservices.gov.au/onlinesecurity
  • People can also contact IDCARE.org, Australia's national identity support service specialising in assisting people whose identity information has been put at risk (physical or online).
  • People can call the IDCARE Hotline is 1300 432 273, 8am - 5pm (AEDT), Monday to Friday, complete a Support Request Form or email contact@idcare.org.
     


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