Sydney residents have been tricked into handing over thousands of dollars in cash at shopping centres as part of an elaborate phone scam.
One woman handed over $10,000 to a man she believed was an undercover police officer at a shopping centre at Miranda.
On December 4, she received a call from someone who told her they were from Service NSW and said that her tax file number and personal accounts had been compromised.
She was instructed to hand over the cash then call Cronulla Police Station to set up new accounts.
A 34-year-old man was arrested on December 11 over the scam. Police allege he has obtained $42,500 in cash from three separate women using scam phone calls.
The Roselands man faces four charges and will appear before Sutherland Local Court on January 21.
Police say the elaborate phone scams are happening more frequently and are targeting people across NSW. They believe the scam is linked to transnational organised crime syndicates.
The scammers are using a technique called called ID spoofing, where the call appears to be coming from a number used by the government agency they say they represent.
The caller purports to be from the police force or a government agency and demands money under threat of violence or arrest, police say.
They convince the person to hand over personal information and give instructions to either purchase gift cards or withdraw cash and hand it over to a particular person.
Another woman gave a man $22,000 cash at a car park at a Wetherill Park shopping centre on December 14.
She had been told by a woman who said she was from the Australian Taxation Office that she had a tax debt that would be referred to police. She then received a call from a man who said he was a police officer, who instructed her to hand over the cash.
That incident is still under investigation.
Another case involved a man who was told by someone posing as a police officer that his tax file number had been used by another person who was in debt to the tune of $1 million.
He was advised to buy gift cards worth $5500 to rectify the issue, and he provided his details to the caller.
Police are warning the public not to provide personal information on unsolicited calls, but to call police instead.
“These callers purport to be various government officials and the essence of the scam is to convince the victim they are in trouble, but they can pay their way out of it,” financial crimes squad commander Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett said in a statement.
“I want to make it very clear that NSW Police Force officers will not request money from you under any circumstances.”
Det Supt Howlett said these scams are often linked to organised criminal syndicates operating across the country and around the world, and are designed to take advantage of people’s trust in authorities.