Beware of phone scams – 2011 Targeting Scams report

22 March 2012

SCAMwatch is continuing to warn Australians to beware of scams delivered by phone with the ACCC receiving over 43,000 reports of scams perpetrated this way in 2011.

Coinciding with National Consumer Fraud Week 2012, the ACCC released its third annual Targeting Scams Report. The report discusses 2011 scams activity and consumer fraud targeting Australian consumers and small businesses.

Targeting Scams report snapshot:

  • The ACCC received over 83,000 scam reports and enquiries in 2011, almost doubling that of 2010.
  • Scam losses reported to the ACCC totalled more than $85.6 million, a 35 per cent increase from 2010.
  • 88 per cent of consumers who contacted the ACCC about scams in 2011 reported no financial loss.
  • The SCAMwatch website received in excess of 20.5 million hits throughout 2011, almost 400 per cent more than in 2010.
  • SCAMwatch also welcomed almost 5,000 new subscribers to its email alert service and more than 2,600 followers to its Twitter page (http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov) in 2011.
  • The ACCC also observed a shift in the preferred mode of scam delivery from online methods in 2010 to unsolicited telephone calls in 2011.
  • Almost 52 per cent of scams reported to the ACCC in 2011 were delivered by phone and reported losses to these scams totalled more than $27.7 million.

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.

Report:

You can report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.

More information:

Stay one step ahead of scammers, follow @SCAMwatch_gov on Twitter or visit http://twitter.com/SCAMwatch_gov.

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