Published: 1 May 2014

Summary: SCAMwatch is warning consumers to be on the lookout for energy billing scams currently doing the rounds.


TITLE TEXT: SCAMwatch - Scam of the month warning: Energy Bills

[SCAMwatch is warning consumers to be on the lookout for energy billing scams currently doing the rounds.]

Question: How does it work?

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard: What happens is you get an email out of the blue telling you that you have an outstanding electricity or gas bill.

You open the email and it will ask you to click on a link. If you click on that link, what will happen is that malware will be downloaded onto your computer which will give the scammer access to any personal information you have on your computer.

It will also ask you to pay the so called outstanding bill, and they'll ask you to do that via money order or wire transfer.

If you make that payment, you'll never see that money again.

Question: How many people have been affected?

Delia: Over 300 people have already complained to the ACCC about this scam this year.

We know though that's just the tip of the iceberg, many many more have been affected.

Personally I have received at least five of these emails in the last few months.

Question: What are the warning signs?

Delia: There's a few - first of all, ask yourself: Is this my energy provider? It's usually the name of a reputable energy provider so it might well be.

Secondly, there's often spelling or grammatical errors in these emails. That should be another tip off.

And thirdly, is this how your energy provider normally communicates with you? If it isn't, that should be a tip off as well.

Question: How can you protect yourself from this scam?

Delia: A few things you could do.

First of all, always make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software installed that you've brought from a reputable provider.

Secondly, ensure you've got a good firewall there.

Thirdly, when one of these turns up, never click on a link that comes from someone you don't know and just hit delete.

Question: What should someone do if they think they have been scammed?

Delia: If you think you may have been scammed, the first thing to do is to run the antivirus software on your computer if you have good antivirus software that is  and see if anything shows up.

If it does show up that is a virus, let the software go through its stages to resolve it.

If that doesn't resolve it, get in contact with your software provider and ask them what to do.

If they aren't able to help you, then you might need to get a computer technician in to assist you.

At the end of the day though, our basic warning to people is:

If you get contacted out of the blue, don't click on any links that comes with that particular email, and never send money via wire transfer or money order to someone you don't know, because the chances are it's a scam.

We say, just hit delete.

[Don't let scammers raise the temperature of your heating bill in the lead up to winter.]