Scam complaints growing in remote Indigenous communities

Scam_picScams have increasingly become an issue being felt by Indigenous peoples and ICAN has long been aware that scammers have been targeting people living in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

ICAN has recently received complaints from the Cairns region and remote Cape York communities regarding persons claiming to be providing grant monies to individuals under the “Australian Federal Government Grant Commission.”  In the instances of this scam, a person claiming to be representing the “Australian Federal Government Grant Commission” advises individuals that they have been randomly selected to receive grant monies in the value of thousands of dollars.  In order to receive the so-called ‘grant’ monies, the victim of the scam would need to facilitate the transfer of monies from the scam party to a Western Union account.

An important aspect of the “Australian Federal Government Grant Commission” scam is the ongoing contact the scam party pursues with its victims, offering increased ‘grant’ money rewards for ongoing participation.

Once someone has become unknowingly involved in a scam, it can become increasingly difficult for them to get out of it.  “People may feel that they are trapped and that they don’t have options to back out, for fear of losing money or the promise of money” said Unaisi Buli, ICAN financial counsellor who has been assisting ICAN clients through their scam complaints.  “It’s really important that people make a complaint to ICAN or the ACCC, if they think they’ve received a phone call or letter that involves giving over your bank details.”

“The people behind these scams may sound convincing, but don’t let them trick you into handing over your personal information, such as your bank account details” said Michael Dowers, Regional Director of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) North Queensland.

“It is important to report scams, and you shouldn’t feel shame or embarrassment if you’ve been caught by a scam, but to call the ACCC’s Indigenous Infoline on 1300 303 143.”

The scam purports to be representing the “Australian Federal Government Grant Commission” – where no such Government department exists.  The footprint of the scam has been large enough to come to the attention of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, who has published a warning statement on its website, concerning the scam:

Scam Warning:

The Commonwealth Grants Commission has become aware that some householders have received phone calls from persons purporting to be from the Australian Federal Government Grant Commission, advising that they (the householder) are eligible for a Government grant.  The caller requests a deposit to a charity to be sent via Western Union and/or bank details to enable the grant to be paid. The Commonwealth Grants Commission does not provide grants to the public and these calls are therefore not genuine. If you receive such a call you may wish to contact the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s SCAM Watch.”*

The ACCC’s SCAMwatch website offers useful advice for people who may be contacted by scam groups:

“Protect yourself
Never send your personal, credit card or banking details in an email or over the phone—scammers will use your details to commit identity fraud or steal your money.
If you receive a call from out of the blue informing you that you have received a climate change grant or other government grants, hang up immediately!
Always get independent advice if an offer involves significant money, time or commitment.
Check your bank account and credit card statements when you get them. If you see a transaction that you cannot explain, report it to your credit union or bank.”**
If you or someone you know has received phone calls from someone purporting to be from the “Australian Grants Commission”, you can make a complaint to ICAN on 1300 369 878 or to the ACCC’s Indigenous Infoline on 1300 303 143 (local call cost from a landline).  If you think you’ve been affected by a scam, contact your bank straight away.  Keep up to date with the latest scams at


*Scam warning, Commonwealth Grants Commission,

** Climate change grants and other government grants, SCAMwatch


Watch the ACCC  scam awareness video for Indigenous consumers here or at: