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Centrelink's outsourced debt collection accused of claiming to be Aus. Gov.

21 February 2017
Triple J Hack

A young doctor says a private debt collection agency chasing her Centrelink debt misleadingly claimed to be the Australian Government. 

It's the latest allegation that debt collectors appointed by the Government are using aggressive tactics to get money from Australians targeted by robo-debts.

[...]

Hack has contacted Probe Group multiple times. At the time of publication, Probe has not returned our calls.

Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge told Hack he would look into Eliza's story.

"It's quite disturbing one of the debt collectors would portray themselves as from the Department of Human Services," he said.

"I don't know whether it's fraud or not."

[...]

Asked how the debt collector was able to contact Eliza, but Centrelink wasn't, he answered: "Debt collectors are pretty good at tracking people down."

Eliza says Centrelink told her she had to submit a Freedom of Information request to access the rent certificate it said proved she had been overpaid rental assistance. She has now submitted the request with the assistance of GetUp!.

She also plans to go to the Financial Ombudsman Service. But these things take time, and she's sitting an end-of-year exam on Monday.

"I work full time and study at night," she said.

"I've already sunk hours into this and don't have the time Centrelink is showing me that I will need to bring this to closure."

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said his office has received hundreds of complains and called for Centrelink to shut down the "flawed" debt recovery system. 

"I'm very alarmed to hear of one particular debt collection agency portraying itself as the Government," he said. 

"I would hope that Alan Tudge and his department jump straight onto this ... and if it is true they take some action - potentially legal action - against that agency."