Scammers impersonating police, using arrest threats

Pay up or go to jail: just hang up

Police are urging people to be wary giving out personal or financial details over the phone. Photo: Shutterstock.

Police are urging people to be wary giving out personal or financial details over the phone. Photo: Shutterstock.


One woman lost $3500 to a scammer last week.


“PAY your debt immediately, or you’ll be arrested.” That’s the line scammers are using to scare their victims into handing over money.

NSW Police issued a fresh warning last week following reports that phone scammers impersonating police officers or Australian Taxation Office officials had been targeting people in the Camden area in Sydney.

Queensland Police also issued a warning after an incident in Logan where a victim lost $3500.

According to police, the callers claim their intended victim has an outstanding Tax Office bill or debt that must be paid or they will be arrested. Usually, the scammers request this debt be paid via gift cards.

To add to the authenticity, the caller identification number displayed is that of the local police station. It is unclear how the scammers are using the actual number.

Police warn members of the public to be wary of any requests for personal details or payments made over the phone and urge people not to give out personal details or transfer money over the phone.

The Australian Taxation Office will never:

  • Threaten you with immediate arrest
  • Ask you to pay money to receive a refund or payment 
  • Ask you to pay a debt via iTunes vouchers, or pre-paid credit card or store gift cards
  • Ask you to provide personal information, such as your tax file number or credit card number, via email or SMS
  • Ask you to pay money into a personal bank account
  • Direct you to download files from the internet, or open attachments in unsolicited emails. 

Protect yourself

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch has the following advice to stay safe from scams:

  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be a representative of Telstra and the call relates to a problem with your internet connection, just hang up.
  • If you have doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a business, organisation or government department, contact the body directly. Don’t rely on contact details provided by the person – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • Remember that you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number or have listed your number on the government’s Do Not Call Register (link is external). Scammers can obtain your number fraudulently or from anywhere it has been publicly listed such as in a phone book.
  • Don’t let scammers press your buttons. Scammers use detailed scripts to convince you they’re the real deal and create a high-pressure situation to make a decision on the spot.
  • Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.
  • Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
  • Never give a stranger remote access to your computer, even if they claim to be from a reputable business.
  • If you think your computer’s security has been compromised, use your security software to run a virus check. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.
  • If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.


If you have lost money as a result of this type of scam, please report the matter to your local police station.

You can also report scams to Scamwatch or by calling 1300-795-995.