Skip to main content

Phone and SMS scams

Scams target everyone. Scammers use stealth, surprise and clever tactics to get what they want – which may be your money or personal details. No one is too smart to be scammed.

But there are things you can do to help spot and protect yourself from a phone or SMS scam.

If you think your money or personal information has been stolen, tell your bank and phone company immediately.

Report a scam to Scamwatch. 

What is a scam?

A scam is when someone deceives you to steal your money, or financial or personal information.

How to spot a scam

Always be wary about any calls or texts that come from people you don’t know, or that impersonate well-known brands and government agencies. 

Fake phone numbers and messages

Scammers can be highly sophisticated, which can make their scams difficult to spot. Scammers may:

  • Disguise their phone number to make it look like they’re calling from somewhere local.
  • Pretend to be from an organisation you trust and ask for your personal details in a call or a text.
  • Use company logos and copy real text messages to look legitimate.
  • Send messages pretending to be a family member or a friend desperate for money. They may say they have a new phone and need you to pay money to help them out of a crisis. 
  • Send messages that appear in the same message chain as real messages from an organisation.

It’s probably a scam if:

  • A call or text sounds too good to be true. To convince you to send money, scammers may offer you products at low prices, say you have won a prize or that there is money waiting for you.
  • Someone you don’t know has your personal details. A scammer might have stolen your personal details, and use these to convince you they are a trusted business (for example, pretending to be your bank or telco provider).
  • A message contains links or attachments. Do not click on links or attachments in text messages unless you are 100% sure it is a legitimate message. Scammers try to catch you off guard and send you to scam websites. Always make sure the sender is who they say they are, and that you know what you are opening.
  • You feel pressured to act quickly. Scammers use techniques to rush you. For example, they may try to convince you it is an emergency and something bad will happen if you don’t act now. They may also offer discounts on products, but only if you act urgently. 
  • Someone requests money in an unusual or specific way. Scammers may ask you to set up a new bank account or PayID to transfer money, or to be paid using gift cards or crypto currency. Your bank will never ask you to open a new account to keep your money safe.

How to protect yourself from phone and SMS scams

Remember the rule: If in doubt, don’t.

Don’t answer, don’t click on links, don’t give personal details, and don’t give money.

Don't provide money or personal information to anyone if you are unsure. 

Scammers will claim to be from institutions you trust, such as a bank or a government department. They may offer to help or ask you to verify who you are. If you are unsure who is contacting you:

  • Don’t answer. Let the call go to voicemail. If the caller leaves a number, check that it matches the one on their website.
  • Don’t reply or click on any links in text messages. Always make sure the sender is who they say they are, and that you know what you are opening. It’s safest to find the information yourself by browsing the website or app rather than clicking on a link.
  • Don’t ever send money or give personal information such as passwords, login information, banking details, multi-factor authentication codes or other sensitive information.
  • Don’t allow callers remote access to your computer. If you receive a call about your computer and remote access is requested – hang up.

Be proactive against phone and SMS scams

To safeguard yourself from phone and SMS scams, you should:

  • Block callers – your phone company can tell you how.
    • On a mobile phone, there may be a setting to block specific numbers. You can also use an app (but watch out for charges).
    • On your home phone, you can get a handset that lets you block calls, or you can get a device for your existing phone that can block callers.
  • Use a password on your mobile.
  • Turn on 2-factor authentication for your online accounts, including banking, email and social media for extra security. 
  • Carefully choose who you share personal details with online and update privacy settings on social media.
  • Check text messages carefully. Look for things that don’t look right – bad spelling, strange sender name or number.
  • Put a lock on your home mailbox – this way, people can’t steal items that give information about your identity.

Act quickly if something feels wrong

If something feels wrong or if you have been scammed, there are steps you can take: 

  • Contact your bank immediately if you notice unusual activity or if a scammer gets your money or information. Your financial institution may be able to put a freeze on your accounts. 
  • Seek help from IDCARE if you’ve had personal details stolen. You can call 1800 595 160.
  • Report scam activity to ReportCyber and Scamwatch to help stop the scam and warn others. 
  • Watch out for follow up scams. If you’ve lost money to a scam, look out for new scams – especially someone offering to help get your money back. 
  • Seek support. If a scam is causing you problems with debt, talk to a financial counsellor. This is a free and confidential service. If you need someone to talk to, get in touch with friends and family. You can also contact Lifeline or Beyond Blue to speak to someone online or by phone. 

Phone scam educational resources

Use our phone scam educational resources to learn about phone scams and how to combat them.

The resources include:

  • Posters in English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Italian, and for First Nations Australians.
  • Social media graphics and animations.
Next up: Phone scam educational resources
Back to top