What are scams using missed calls and text messages from unknown numbers?
Missed call scams start by ringing your phone and hanging up so quickly that you can’t answer the call in time. Your phone registers a missed call and you probably won’t recognise the number. People will often then call the number back to find out who it is. Apart from being a nuisance, the missed call can lead to a scam in two ways:
The number you call back may be redirected to a premium rate service (a number that starts with 190) without your knowledge, which means you will be charged a lot of money per minute.
The number may tell you that you have won a prize of some sort and give you another number to call to ‘claim’ your prize, but they may not tell you how much the call will cost. This second number may be a premium rate number, again charging you a lot of money to get your ‘prize’. Your prize may be nothing more than a ring tone subscription—which can also be a scam!
Text message scams work by sending you a text message from a number you may not recognise, but the content of the message could sound like it’s from a friend—for instance ‘Hi, it’s John. I’m back! When do you want to catch up?’ or ‘Hey big fella, happy birthday!’.
Another common tactic is for a text message to sound like someone flirting with you. Many people reply asking who it is and end up engaging in a lengthy SMS exchange with the scammer. Only later do they find out that they have been charged a high rate both for messages they sent (sometimes there are also charges for messages received as well).
If you receive a text message which sounds like it’s from a friend but comes from a number that you don’t recognise—DO NOT reply. Check the number: Is it a premium number beginning with 19 or 190? Is the message signed? If it is, do you know anybody by that name?
Ask your friends whether they called you or sent you the text message.
Try entering the 19 number into the 19SMS website to find out who owns that number.
If you still want to return a missed call or reply to a text message from an unknown number, you should be aware that some numbers have very high charges. You could also end up with a huge phone bill if you engage in a text message conversation with a number that charges you for messages sent as well as received, or if you dial a premium rate number.
If you do receive a missed call or text message from a number that you don’t recognise, it is usually best not to reply or call back. If somebody really wants to speak to you, they will call you back or leave you a voicemail message.
If you do reply to a scammer, it only shows that you are interested and you could then receive loads of similar messages and calls.
If you have received such a call or text, or if you have returned the call or text and you now realise it is a scam, you can report it through the SCAMwatch website and to your phone company. Your telephone company may also be able to put a bar on premium rate services from and to your phone (190 numbers). You should also spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.
Australia has laws regulating the sending of commercial SMS messages. For more information about spam in Australia or to make a complaint a commercial text message you think may be spam, visit 'Spam & e-Security' on the ACMA website.