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Ring tone scams

What is a ring tone scam?

These scams might attract you with an offer for a ‘free’ or low cost ring tone. What you may not realise is that by accepting the offer, you are actually subscribing to a service that will keep sending you ring tones—and charging you a premium rate for them. There are many legitimate companies selling ring tones, but there are also scammers who will try to hide the true cost of taking up the offer.

The scammers don’t tell you that your request for the first ring tone is actually a subscription to an expensive service. A scammer will also make it difficult for you to stop the service. You actually have to ‘opt out’ of the service to stop the ring tones and high charges. Some people have been charged over $100 for what they thought was one ring tone.

Warning signs

  • You receive a text message (SMS) from a number you don’t know, offering you a very cheap or even ‘free’ ring tone.
  • The message or ad doesn’t include the terms or conditions of the offer.
  • The message doesn’t mention the cost of the first ring tone or any ongoing costs.
  • It is not clear how you can stop receiving ring tones.
  • The message does not mention the name of the company offering the ring tone.
  • The number you are asked to reply to begins with 19 (these messages are charged at a premium rate).

Protect yourself from ring tone scams

  • Use your common sense: the offer may be a scam.
  • Read all the terms and conditions of any offer very carefully: claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs.
  • Make sure you know how to stop any subscription service you want to sign up to.
  • It is best not to respond to text messages or missed calls that come from numbers you don’t recognise.
  • Be careful of phone numbers beginning with 190. These are charged at a premium rate and can be very expensive.
  • Look out for SMS and MMS numbers that start with 19. These are charged at a premium rate (sometimes even for receiving a message) and can be very expensive.

As well as following these specific tips, find out how to protect yourself from all sorts of other scams.

Do your homework

If you think the ring tone sounds like a good deal, make sure you know who is making the offer and what the conditions of the offer are. Call your phone company first to check out if the sender is for real. You should also make sure that the ring tone will work on your phone.

The main ACCC website has further information on ring tones and what you need to look out for.

You could lose a lot of money if the ring tone you decide to try turns out to be a scam and you can’t get a refund. If you think an offer might be a scam, you could also check with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman or with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.


Don’t reply to these text messages—even if you only want to ask a question or turn down the offer. If you reply, you could then receive many more similar messages, or even be signed up to the ring tone service automatically.

If you have already been signed up and are receiving unwanted ring tones, reply with the word ‘Stop’. If you are still receiving ring tones, you should report it to your phone company.

If you want a fancy ring tone, find a reputable supplier and make sure you know the cost (upfront and in the future).

Your telephone company may also be able to put a bar on premium rate services to and from your phone (190 phone numbers and 19 SMS and MMS numbers).

Report them

If you have been charged money for a ring tone that you did not agree to, you should report it to your phone company and also report the scam through SCAMwatch. We also want to hear about any ring tone offers that you think may be a scam. Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them against these types of scams.


What to do if you've been scammed; Scams & the law; Report a scam.

Similar scams:

Missed calls that can lead to premium rate charges. Mysterious text messages that can cost a lot of money if your reply to them.

You are encouraged to enter a competition or trivia contest over SMS for a great prize – but misled about your chances or how much it will cost to take part.

Offers of ‘free’ website access, downloads, holidays, shares or product trials – but you have to supply your credit card or other personal details.

There are many types of scams that aim to steal your credit card details, either by taking the card itself or by tricking you into giving them the card’s details.

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