Spotting scam phone calls

Scam Calls

Just like scam emails and scam post, there are some very unscrupulous people out there that will call you and claim to be something that they are not such as the Tax Office, an energy supplier, phone company, a bank or the police.

They will pressure you to get your personal or bank details so that they can use them. They can be very convincing and often threaten with fines, tax bills, arrest, deportation, legal action, or to disconnect your service.

They may ask you to buy gift cards, iTunes vouchers, Bitcoin or pre-paid credit cards to pay your fine or debt. In other cases, they may request remote access to your computer and/or bank accounts to investigate an ‘issue’ or stop a transfer.

Legitimate businesses will never threaten to arrest you, or demand immediate payment of a tax debt or fine with unusual payment methods like gift cards or Bitcoin, or request remote access to your computer.


Will scammers contact me?

They probably have already! The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC’s) Scamwatch agency received close to 33,000 reports of phone scams in 2017, which cost Australians over $4.7 million. Of course a majority of cases will never be reported, those in the know just ignore the call and many people who get caught out are embarrassed and may feel stupid. It’s not your fault if the scammer is doing their job well, report such activity immediately.


Case Study

A call from the bank…

“They told me that someone had attempted to send $800 to the USA via my internet banking. They said I could stop it by giving them my bank ID. I explained I didn’t even have Internet Banking- they said I would receive two SMS codes which they required to stop the money from being transferred. It was all a bit rushed and they were quite aggressive when they spoke to me. They kept saying, “It’s urgent, read the codes out quickly or the money will be gone!”. I was in quite a fluster, so I gave the caller all the information they’d asked for.”

Two days later when the callee visited his local branch to withdraw some cash, he found out that $4990 had been transferred overseas. The money could not be recovered and they were out of pocket for the full amount.

When they gave the caller their bank ID, they used it to register him for Internet Banking. This triggered the first SMS code to be sent to him, which he provided to them. The second SMS code he received and gave to the caller authorised the transfer of $4990.


How to stay safe

  • Treat any unsolicited phone calls with caution. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of any call, hang up, and call back on an official phone number to verify the call was legitimate.
  • Never provide personal or banking information on unsolicited calls.
  • Ensure you carefully read any SMS codes sent to you. If it states “Your secret code is xxxxx. Do not provide this to anyone, even the provider”, do not disclose this code to anyone.
  • Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer or online bank accounts.
  • Think ‘Stranger Danger!’. How would you react if the conversation was face to face in real life? Hopefully, if a stranger approached you in the street and asked for your details, you would walk away. Same rule on phone calls, email, social media – anywhere!

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