12 March 2007
Tips to help consumers avoid phone scams
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has warned consumers to be alert to scams that operate by way of calls or texts to private phones.
‘As well as the cold call scams promising incredible investment returns that have been around for a while now, scammers are devising more sophisticated ways to take advantage of consumers through calls or texts to their fixed line and mobile phones. Consumers need to be aware that they could be targeted by unscrupulous people and be able to protect themselves from often ingenious scams,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman
Consumers can avoid scams when they know what to look out for, or exercise caution so as not to fall into the scammer’s trap. ACMA offers the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from phone scams:
1. Be suspicious of unexpected calls and text messages.
Before replying to calls or text messages, remember to check the number. If you make a call or return a call using a ‘190’ number you will generally be charged at a higher rate than a local call. If you receive a text message from a ‘19’ number you will generally be charged at a higher rate than a standard text message and you could also be charged for both messages you receive and send in reply.
2. Hang up. Or text ‘STOP’ to unwanted messages.
If you receive a call with an offer that sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, so hang up. If you receive a text message containing no more than a person’s first name or containing a greeting from a person you don’t know (e.g. ‘Hi I’m back’), check the number before you reply to make sure you won’t be charged at a premium rate. A text message with a number that begins with ‘19’ is generally charged at a higher rate than a standard text message. Text the word ‘STOP’ for any service you don’t want that uses a ‘19’ number.
3. Don’t give out your number to just anyone.
Be careful when giving your phone number to a caller you don’t know, even if they claim to be from a reputable organisation. Ask them why they need your number and what will they use it for. Look out for terms and conditions which permit the organisation to give your number to any other company and tell them you don’t want your information given out to anyone else. Also think about using the facility on your phone to block your phone number when you make calls. Contact your phone company for advice on how to block your phone number.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
Some recent phone scams where unsuspecting phone owners have been targeted by scammers include:
Text message scam
Pete is sent a text saying ‘Hi I’m back. Can we catch up?’ He innocently replies to the text asking who the sender is. Pete is strung along with text messages such as ‘Can’t you guess?’ After a number of messages are sent and received, the messages cease without Pete discovering the identity of the person. The next time Pete checks his record of calls, he discovers he has been charged $5.00 for every message he sent and received.
Missed call scam
Helen’s phone rings but the caller hangs up so quickly that Helen doesn’t have time to answer the call. The phone registers a missed call with a number that Helen doesn’t recognise. When she calls the number back to find out who had called her, she receives a message that she has won a prize and is given a ‘190’ number to call to claim her prize. In her excitement, she does not notice the recorded advice that calls to this number are charged at a premium rate. The cost of the call was significantly more than she was willing to pay for the prize.
Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce
Consumer scams are crimes of dishonesty such as forgery, counterfeiting, on-line deception, and theft that are targeted at people who seek to purchase goods and services. Potential victims can be those who use fixed line or mobile phones, computers and the internet, older people, and those who use professional advisers.
As part of a whole of Government approach to combat consumer fraud and scams targeted at consumers, the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce was established in March 2005 and comprises 18 government regulatory agencies and departments in Australia and New Zealand.
ACMA has joined forces with these agencies to raise awareness about scams and fraud prevention.
The four-week campaign was launched last week by the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce to help people protect themselves from scams.
The theme for the second week of the campaign is 'Protect Your Phone’.
Agencies participating in the Taskforce are:
Australian Government: Attorney General’s Department; Australian Bureau of Statistics; Australian Communications and Media Authority; Australian Competition & Consumer Commission; Australian Federal Police (represented by the Australian High Tech Crime Centre); Australian Institute of Criminology; Australian Securities & Investment Commission; and the Department of Communications, Information Technology & the Arts.
New Zealand Government: NZ Commerce Commission; Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
State and Territory Governments: Australian Capital Territory – Office of Fair Trading; Consumer Affairs Victoria; New South Wales – Office of Fair Trading; Northern Territory – Department of Justice; Queensland – Department of Tourism, Fair Trading and Wine Industry Development; South Australia – Office of Consumer & Business Affairs; Tasmania – Office of Consumer Affairs & Fair Trading; Western Australia – Department of Consumer & Employment Protection.
Taskforce members are joined in communicating with Australian consumers about scams by a range of community, non-Government and private sector organisations. Visit http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/scams/partners.asp for a list of Taskforce partners.
Consumers who think they’ve spotted a scam can check the ScamWatch website at www.scamwatch.gov.au which has detailed information about scams, or they can report a scam on 1300 795 995.