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SMS competition & trivia scams

What is an SMS competition & trivia scam?

An SMS competition or SMS trivia scam usually arrives as a text message and may encourage you to enter a competition for a great prize (like an mp3 player). The message (or sometimes, an advertisement) could also invite you to take part in a trivia competition, with a great prize on offer if you answer a certain number of questions correctly.

The scammers make money by charging extremely high rates for the messages you send, and any further messages they send to you. These charges could be as high as $4 for each message sent and/or received.

With trivia scams, the first lot of questions will be very easy. This is meant to encourage you to keep playing. However, the last one or two questions that you need to answer to claim your ‘prize’ could be very difficult or impossible to answer correctly (and may even require you to guess a random number).

Warning signs

  • You receive a text message offering you the chance to win a great prize by sending a return text to enter a competition.
  • A text message tells you that you could win a great prize by participating in a trivia competition over SMS. The first message may even contain a very easy question to tempt you.
  • The text message (or other advertisement) does not give you details about how to stop receiving more messages.
  • The first text message, or the advertisement for the competition does not contain all the terms and conditions.

Protect yourself from SMS competition & trivia 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

Contact your mobile phone company to ask about the number—they will know if it comes from a premium rate service. You could 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.

If you did not want to participate and you receive more messages, make sure you tell your phone company that the charges are not being made with your permission.

Decide

It’s best not to reply to any text messages you receive if you don’t recognise the number—it only shows that you are interested and you could then receive many more similar messages.

If you are interested, make sure you understand how much it will cost you and how you can stop receiving messages. If you want to be extra safe, ask your telephone company to put a bar on premium rate services (190 numbers) from and to your phone.

Report them

If you have received such a text message, or if you have replied to the text message and you now realise it is a scam, you can report it through the SCAMwatch website and to your phone company. You should also spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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

Similar scams:


Misleading offers for ‘free’ or cheap ring tones that end up being a subscription or premium rate service.

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

Unexpected prizes that need you to send money to claim—you may never receive the prize or it may not be what you expected.

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