Beware of scams

Scam calls are unsolicited communications all made with the same criminal intention – to get Australians to reveal personal details and information about themselves.

Spam is an unlawful, unwanted email or text message advertising goods or services.

If the spam you receive is also from a scammer or contains malware it can be dangerous and result in a significant financial loss.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reported that total losses from scams in 2019 were over $634 million, a $145 million increase on the previous year. With many scams being conducted on telecommunications networks, the telecommunications industry is determined to be part of the solution and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) will continue working with Government and regulators to combat scams.

More recently, the ACCC received over 3,600 scam reports mentioning COVID-19, with reported losses of an estimated $ 2.4 billion since the outbreak of the virus. The most common scams include phishing for personal information, online shopping and superannuation scams, with half (52%) of these scams delivered through mobile phones.

With scammers becoming more sophisticated, it’s important that you know what to look out for and take steps to avoid phone scams on your mobile device.

Here are AMTA’s top tips for protecting yourself on your mobile devices.

1. Be on alert for impersonations

    • If you receive a call, text message, or email from an unknown number, consider not answering and do not provide any personal/financial identifying information if they request it over the phone. Do not click on any links or open attachments provided from unknown senders, instead delete them.
    • Scammers often pretend to be someone that you may trust, like a charity, your mobile service provider, government official, or sometimes a family member and there are many ways in which scammers can impersonate and intimidate receivers into supplying personal information. If you are worried, simply contact whoever the message claims to be directly by a number you know is theirs (not always the number provided in the message).
    • Scammers can manipulate caller ID information, so it is always best to hang up if someone calls asking for personal information or money. Using caller protection apps, are a helpful way to protect yourself against scam phone calls as they block the numbers and texts you want to avoid.

2. Protect your personal information

    • Two-factor authentication is also a good way to build in an extra layer of security to control access to sensitive data as it double-checks your identity first before letting you use a particular account, such as your email.
    • Never give out personal details like your password, PIN, bank or credit card details, in response to any unexpected text message, email, or phone call that you receive without first verifying the legitimacy of the request.

3. Be careful what you install

    • Do not install apps or software on your mobile unless they are from a trusted source such Apple AppStore or Google Play. Once downloaded, an app can gain access to sensitive and personal information on your phone. And also avoid unauthorised or “pirated” copies of software.
    • Creating a new account using your Facebook login, such as a music streaming service or dating site, allows these apps access to any public information on your profile. To safeguard your personal information, remember to regularly log into your Facebook account to check which apps have access to your profile and remove the ones that you no longer need. It is also important to be wary of apps or software attached to notifications that you were not expecting to receive as these can sometimes be scams.

4. Up your level of security

    • Familiarise yourself with the security functions of your mobile, ensure you keep your software regularly updated, as phone manufacturers are constantly updating their operating system software to combat malware.
    • It is also worth considering installing anti-virus software on your smartphone if you think that you may potentially be at risk to ensure you are doing everything to protect your information and stop the scammers.

Phone scams, spams and malware have the potential to target anyone and affect millions of individuals every year. Not only are they a nuisance, they can also defraud everyday Australians and have devastating effects on individuals and families alike.

If you are affected by a phone scam, please report it to the ACCC through its Scamwatch website.

AMTA recommends you contact your network service provider for advice on spam filtering or phone blocking.  And if you think someone has broken the spam rules, you can report it to the Australian Communications and Media Authority ( ACMA).