Jim Pembroke

About Jim Pembroke

Jim Pembroke grew up in Brisbane, Queensland, where he learnt to sail, and got his B.Ed at QUT where he learnt to write, M.Ed at JCU, Townsville, where he learnt to think. He now lives permanently on his boat where he writes too much.

Centrelink: They will find you. And they will bill you.

Approx Reading Time-11Move over Nigerian princes, for there’s a new scamster in town. Centrelink’s shenanigans have gotten out of hand, and the solution requires a man with “a very particular set of skills…”


People all over Australia are receiving scary letters or phone calls telling them that someone they should be able to trust is demanding money from them. The scam has been all over the papers. So, beware.

It starts innocently enough. Those targeted are usually looking for some kind of help. Maybe they lose their job, require child support, youth allowance or just need some emergency assistance. Of course, that highlights a common trait of all scam artists. They prey on the vulnerable – people at a low point in their lives. Like the online romance where the man with the African accent types the most beautiful, but unlikely things. He loves you. He adores you. He wants to spend the rest of his life watching chick flicks and promises to never look at porn.

You need to believe.

This recent scam has all the sweet words too. “How can we help you? Need support? We care.” Sure.

People have no reason not to believe. It seems legitimate enough.

Another aspect of this con is the measures the scammers have taken to groom millions of other victims. Even the media have bought into it.

News outlets are on board, “The scammers were reportedly mugged by frightful, welfare recipients who are gaming the system. The scam artists love us and are desperate to give us everything we ever dreamed of. But, they need our help. They are being held hostage by corrupt single mothers, hideous unemployed and ugly students.”

Where were Tudge’s Liam Neeson impersonations when corporate tax evaders, rorting banks and dodgy employers were in the news?

The scammers have no money themselves, of course, but with the victim’s help, they are due to inherit a huge fortune from “wealthy” spouses, carers and the ill.

“If we can get this money we will be richer than any Nigerian prince,” shouts a parrot faced, shock jock into a nearby microphone. He too, has swallowed the scammer’s Kool-Aid.

Okay, let’s tone down the subtext a bit and come right out and say it: the government is scamming us.

We are caught up in their web of demonisation where the most vulnerable are condemned for being needy – a lifestyle choice.

So, when welfare recipients start receiving letters demanding that wrongful debts be repaid, many taxpayers cheer, even if the debts are fake. And that’s what makes this a real scam. They know it’s causing great anxiety, distress and confusion for many innocent, defenceless people. They just don’t care and they have taught many of us not to care. Australians buying into guilt by association – if you’re not guilty, why did you need welfare?

If you have any doubt that this is an orchestrated attack on a vulnerable demographic just listen to the ramped up rhetoric of the Human Resources Minister Alan Tudge.

“We’ll find you, we’ll track you down and you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison.”

Where were Tudge’s Liam Neeson impersonations when corporate tax evaders, rorting banks and dodgy employers were in the news?

Also on The Big Smoke

Back to subtext.

So, the victims of this shake-down are scared. The scam artists have access to all their personal information, have control of their finances and are now menacing them with fines and jail time. Desperation sets in when the scammers threaten to extort more money if the victims don’t pay up quickly – a debt recovery fee. Many victims break a basic rule. They attempt to negotiate with the scammers. Anyone who has ever tried this knows they will lose their minds in a twilight zone of failed Internet, phone hold music, endless queues and invisible paper shuffling.

It’s a hopeless minefield. They can’t afford it and know they’re being scammed but they just want the nightmare to go away. So, many victims will clench their teeth, shake their fists in despair and just pay up.

Sadly, there’s no happy ending.

A happy ending would involve a terrifying movie hard guy – a retired CIA agent who’d investigate and use his black ops skills to fight his way into their fortified stronghold, disabling the apathetic bad guys by answering all the calls on hold. Classic Hollywood.

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