Have you ever received a phone call or SMS out of the blue that wasn’t quite right? Did the caller request sensitive personal or financial details such as your bank account or credit card number? Did they want remote access to your computer?
You may have encountered a scam phone call. In 2011 scams received over the phone were the most common scams reported to the ACCC. Consumers and small businesses contacted the ACCC almost 43,000 times in 2011 to report scams they had received by phone. Australians lost over $27.7 million dollars to these scams throughout the year.
Common phone scams reported in 2011 included:
Callers pretending to be from government: In 2011 the ACCC saw large numbers of advance fee scams initiated by telephone. Many involved scammers posing as representatives from government departments, for example offering fake grants, rebates or refunds in return for up-front payments.
Callers pretending to be from companies: In 2011 it was also common for scammers to pose as staff from well known companies and organisations asking for personal details, payments or remote access to the victim’s computer. Scammers posed as representatives from banks, computer companies, telecommunications services, postal and logistics services, and solar panel installers.
Scam SMS: Text messages are also commonly used by scammers to send competition or prize scams. Scammers often try to snare many people with one SMS sent en masse - this is known as spamming. Scammers may request personal details or payments in scam SMS messages. If you respond, you could also be charged at premium rates or find yourself signed up to a costly subscription service.
Protect yourself from phone scams:
Be cautious if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from government or a well known company and they request personal details or up-front payments.
If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a call, don’t commit to anything. Instead hang up and call the company or government department directly using their official customer service number to verify that it is genuine. Never use contact details provided by the caller, instead find the number via an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
Never confirm or provide personal details, credit card numbers or other account information over the phone unless you initiated the call and trust the other party.
If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer and requesting remote access - hang up – even if they mention a well-known company. Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
Remember that you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number. Scammers can obtain your number fraudulently from black-market sources.
You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.