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What are threat and penalty scams?

Threat and penalty (may also be referred to as extortion) scams are when scammers threaten you with harm (physical or emotional), arrest, legal action or other demands in an attempt to force you into handing over money.

What they're after

Threat and penalty scams are after your personal information or your money.

How they contact you

How they contact you* % How they contact you* %



Social Networking






Text message


Not applicable


Mobile applications




In person





Financial institutions, government agencies and most organisations will never contact you requesting access to your device, share your passwords, security codes or other personal information via a pop up or a phone call. Never share these with anyone, regardless of the claims being made. Always call organisations back on trusted numbers found on their website or phone directory to validate any of these types of requests.

Signs this may be a threat and penalty scam

A caller claiming to be from the police, a government agency or a company, threatens severe action or fines unless you pay immediately.

Do not pay. Hang up. Contact the organisation on a number you source.

An email advises your online history, photos, etc will be exposed if you do not comply with a payment.

Do not pay. Do not act on their requests or perform any activities that you may be asked to do.

You are asked to pay an outstanding or overdue bill by gift or store cards, iTunes vouchers, wire transfers or bitcoin.

Do not pay. Government agencies and trusted companies will never ask you to pay this way.

You receive a phone call advising you will be deported if you do not proceed with the caller’s instructions.

Do not act. Government departments will never threaten immediate arrest or deportation via phone or a recorded message.

Who should I contact and examples of threat scams?

Jane received a call from someone identifying themselves as a representative of the Australian Tax Office. She was told she had a tax debt and if she did not pay it immediately, she would be arrested and go to jail.

Jane was instructed to purchase iTunes gift cards (the caller told her iTunes was an acronym for Income Taxation Underpayment Notarised Electronic system). These would be used to pay her debt.

The caller was very persistent, and the threat sounded legitimate. Jane did not want to be arrested, so she went to her local supermarket as instructed by the representative and purchased $3,000 worth of iTunes gift cards.

She provided the card numbers to the representative as instructed.

This was a scam and Jane unfortunately lost her money. 

Latest Scams

To stay in the loop, and stay protected, check out our list of the latest phishing scams impersonating Westpac.

Report a scam

If you receive any suspicious calls, emails or SMS messages, or notice unusual activity on your account, it’s important that you let us know.

Security Wellbeing Check

To help keep you up to date with the latest security features, we’ve introduced the Security Wellbeing Check. Found in the Westpac App, it checks your Westpac settings and suggests how you can improve the security of your banking facilities.

Things you should know

1. Delivery method percentages are based on the number of reports from 1 January 2020 to 31 October 2020. The data is sourced from the Australian  Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) scam watch website and is based on reports provided to the ACCC by web form and over the phone.

*Examples are based on one or more real scam reports received by Westpac. For privacy purposes real names have not been used.