Phone scams

The Australian Cyber Security Centre provides you with up-to-date advice on current threats and vulnerabilities, as well as guidance on mitigation and cyber security best practice.

What are phone call scams?

There are many ways scammers try to get your information or money over the phone. They will usually pretend to be from a well-known organisation, such as a government agency, a utilities provider, Australia Post, a bank or the police. They can be incredibly convincing.

Some of the most common types of phone call scams are:

Remote access scams

The scammer says there’s an issue with your computer and they’re calling to help you fix it. They then try to coax you into actions that could actually compromise your computer or reveal bank information.

The scammers might ask you to enter a URL into your web browser or ask for your bank account details to transfer money, supposedly to prove whether you have been hacked. Other scammers will try to convince you to buy software to fix the fake problem.

Some scammers have even pretended to be from us at the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), but we would never contact you by phone to request access to your computer, ask you to install software or request financial information.

False accounts

The scammer tries to sign you up to fake accounts by pretending to be a reputable sales provider, such as a phone company, and requests your identity information and credit card details.

Prizes and special deals

The scammer offers you special deals or says you’ve won something, and then asks for your personal information or bank account details.

False billing

The scammer says you have missed paying a bill and threatens legal action if you do not pay by credit card over the phone.

Overseas missed call scams

The scammer will call you and let it ring once then hang up without leaving a message, so a missed call will appear on your phone from an international number. If you call the number back, you will be charged at a premium rate.

How do I recover from phone call scams?

If you’ve lost money to a scam or given your personal details to a scammer, you’re unlikely to get your money back. However, you should report the scam to the ACCC’s Scamwatch.

Scamwatch provides a checklist of steps you can take to limit the damage and protect yourself from further loss.

You can also contact IDCare, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service.

How do I prevent falling victim to phone call scams?

Here are some tips to help you reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a phone call scam:

  • If you’re contacted unexpectedly, even by an organisation you know, always consider the possibility that it could be a scam. Find the organisation’s phone number using a reputable source, such as their website or the phone book, and call them back on that to be sure.

  • Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.

  • Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.

  • Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller and don’t respond to threatening emails or voicemail messages asking you to call someone back. If you do, the scammers may increase their intimidation and attempts to get your money.

  • If you are asked by an organisation to pay by unusual methods such as with gift or store cards, iTunes cards, wire transfers or bitcoin, stop immediately.

  • If you receive an unexpected missed call from an international number you don’t recognise, ignore it.

  • If you are receiving repeated missed calls, block the number.

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