Brett, from Sydney, was told by Centrelink on Thursday that he'd been overpaid and that he owed them $2360.06. They cited two periods in the past, one in 2013 and another from mid-2014 to mid-2015, when they claim he'd been working and therefore not entitled to benefits.
The problem is, though, the 2013 period was before he'd ever even applied for Centrelink payments. He wasn't actually getting benefits at that point, had never accepted Centrelink payments at that point, but Centrelink says he still owes them money for that period.
Brett, who asked that his full name not be used, told The Huffington Post Australia that Centrelink have given him less than a month to pay back the $2360.
"It doesn't have any option for dispute. There's no message or notification when you go into the website, it's only the text that says we've settled your case through data matching. I had to go in and find the debt," Brett said. "There's a button to set up a payment arrangement, but there's no info on here, no way to lodge a dispute."
"I definitely don't have the money, especially after Christmas."
Brett said he has been trying to contact Centrelink since yesterday, calling at least 30 times, but each time the line is busy. As HuffPost Australia reported on Thursday, some people are calling Centrelink hundreds of times before the line even connects.
"The government is dealing with this, it's like they're lying, they're evading the reality of the situation. They're saying the first letters aren't debt letters, and that's true, but as soon as you update your details you're hit with it and there's no way around it," he said. "You're guilty until proven innocent. I'm really pissed off about this. Where's the sense in trying to take advantage of the disadvantaged, when there's major corps paying no tax?"