Door-knockers offering free laptops not from the Government

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Consumer Protection is warning Western Australians, particularly those in remote and regional communities, about door-knockers offering ‘free’ laptops to people who sign up for courses.

Acting Commissioner David Hillyard says varying reports are being looked into and there’s a common theme that consumers are on a low-income and thought they were dealing with someone working for, or associated with, the Government.

“Last month a number of people living in Broome were paid a visit by men they thought were offering free laptops in exchange for signing up for a training course. Secure personal information including tax file numbers and copies of driver’s licences were taken,” he said.

“Generally, those who accepted the proposal did not receive paperwork in exchange making it very difficult for the local police or Consumer Protection to ascertain if the men are representing a training provider or if they are scammers.”

As well as complaints from the Kimberley, Consumer Protection is looking into reports from Mid-West and South-West WA regarding men knocking on doors and offering training courses, such as a diploma, with the promise of a free laptop.

“Because we’re unclear whether these men are from a legitimate organisation, we would urge people NOT to give secure, personal details such as tax file numbers or copies of driver’s licences, birth certificates, passports or even utility bills,” Mr Hillyard said.

“There are concerns that these consumers could be unknowingly signed up for a Commonwealth Government ‘Vocational Education and Training (VET) FEE-HELP’ loan, which is a debt that has to be repaid once your income reaches a certain level and can affect your credit rating.

“Since April VET FEE-HELP training providers have been banned from offering enrolment inducements to students, so anyone promising a free laptop is breaking Federal Government rules around the loan-scheme and shouldn’t be trusted.”

Mr Hillyard encouraged people to do their homework before enrolling in any course.

“It’s a big decision, so shop around to find the right course for you. Check www.training.gov.au to see whether a training provider is registered to provide a certain course. You can also visit the www.studyassist.gov.au site to see whether a course provider is approved to offer VETFEE-HELP loans.”

Consumer Protection tips for dealing with door-knockers:

  • Don’t be fooled by how someone looks. Conmen may be dressed in suits if they are selling services or goods out of a briefcase. They could be in high visibility clothing or overalls if they are posing as a tradesman.
  • Ask for their full name, where they are from and their identification.
  • Consider independently sourcing the phone number for the organisation or business they claim to work for e.g. in the White Pages, and phoning to check whether the person at your door really is from that company.
  • Remember you have the right to ask someone to leave your premises and if they refuse and you feel threatened, call the police to report trespass.
  • If you have any concerns about an approach made to you contact Consumer Protection immediately on 1300 30 40 54 with the details including a description of the person, any name(s) used and the vehicle registration if possible.
  • If you prefer you can call your Consumer Protection regional office in the North-West: 9185 0900; Kimberley: 9191 8400; Mid-West: 9920 9800; Goldfields/Esperance: 9026 3250; South-West: 9722 2888 or Great Southern: 9842 8366.
  • Remember if someone comes to your home uninvited and signs you up to buy something this is an unsolicited sale, so you get a 10 business day cooling off period to think over the deal and cancel if you wish.
  • Displaying a Do Not Knock sticker (available from Consumer Protection) might help to show anyone coming to your door that you know your rights and make you less of a target for travelling conmen.
  • Consumer Protection provides regular updates about travelling conmen via social media. Follow us on Twitter: @ConsumerWA #stopconmen and/or Facebook: www.facebook.com/ConsumerProtectionWesternAustralia

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
15 Jun 2015

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