'Human error': Telstra cites mishap for giving Mandurah pensioner scam number

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

Telstra have cited "human error" for the reason a Mandurah pensioner was told to call a scam number after seeking help for internet issues. 

Loreen Kerrigan said her 69-year-old mother Melva Silins called her "distressed" on Monday after she was asked to hand over $680 to fix her internet issues. 

Ms Kerrigan said her mother, who is "not very computer savvy", had asked a Mandurah Telstra employee for help with her internet connectivity.

"The employee searched for a number online and told her to call a 1300 number for technical support," she said.

It's disgusting there is a group out there targetting elderly people.

Loreen Kerrigan

Ms Kerrigan said Ms Silins called the number and was told by a woman called 'Angel' that her account had been hacked.

"She said mum could pay the money for a lifetime guarantee she would not be hacked again," she said. 

"Mum would have paid but she actually couldn't afford it.

"She called me, distressed, wanting to sort it out because she didn't know what to do."

We have personally apologised to the customer for the confusion and we’re currently working them to sort out their connection issue.

Telstra spokesman

Ms Kerrigan called the number and said the woman sounded suspicious, but thought it was valid because a Telstra employee had provided the number.

"I got a bit cross  - the woman became pushy and I and felt like she was trying to keep me on the phone so I hung up," she said.

Ms Kerrigan said the scammer called her mother back and told her she would have to pay for the technical work she had done. 

Ms Kerrigan searched the real customer service number online and spoke to an employee who assured her "Telstra does not operate that way". 

"It's disgusting there is a group out there targetting elderly people," she said. 

A Telstra spokesperson said this was a case of human error by a new employee who was trying their best to assist a customer.

“The employee was acting with the best intentions in attempting to help a customer to reconnect their services,” he said.

“In their haste to help they provided this customer with incorrect details.

"We have coached the employee on what should have occurred. It has been a painful experience for this employee and a lesson learnt on sticking to approved processes when it comes to providing advice to customers.

“We have personally apologised to the customer for the confusion and we’re currently working them to sort out their connection issue.”

Consumer Protection Commissioner Lanie Chopping said it was common for scammers to pose as representatives from telecommunication services, banks and government departments. 

"Scammers are becoming increasingly professional at fleecing money from innocent victims, constantly changing their names and methods to keep ahead of consumer warnings," she said. 

"Be cautious if someone claiming to be from a well-known company or government agency requests personal details or up-front payments."