Scams over the phone

How to keep yourself safe from scams

What are they?

Phone scams, sometimes referred to as ‘vishing’ (voice and phishing), have been around for as long as landlines have existed. 

But thanks to the rise of technology, nearly everyone has a device on them at all times – meaning there are many more opportunities for fraudsters to trick you with false claims, pleas for help, threats or even the promise of a free holiday.

The most common phone scam is known as a remote access scam, whereby the caller claims to be from a trustworthy organisation such as Telstra, the NBN or the ATO and tries to convince you that you either have a Wi-Fi problem or there’s strange activity in your bank account and they need your help in ‘catching a hacker’. They convince you to allow them access to your computer where they can manipulate what you see on your screen while they snoop around for your personal information or plant malware which tracks your keystrokes. Do not allow this under any circumstances; just hang up.

Other phone scams include:

  • Fraudsters claiming to be bank employees or law enforcement, who then request account information or personal details.
  • Fraudsters claiming to be government officials from agencies such as the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Department of Human Services or Centrelink, or the Australian Federal Police, pressuring you into paying them money that you supposedly owe by threatening you with arrest, or deportation.

Signs of telephone scams

Be wary if you receive a call:

  • Out of the blue claiming to be from a large telecommunications or computer company, or technical support service provider telling you they need to remotely access your computer.
  • Asking you to buy software or sign up to a service to fix your computer.
  • Asking you to provide your personal details and your account or credit card details because you’re owed a refund, or there’s a problem with your account.
  • Telling you that in order to resolve a matter you will need to pay a fee or fine.
  • Telling you the police will come to your door and arrest you if you do not pay a fee or fine.

Important things to remember:

  • Sometimes you may get a 'warm up' call where no information is discussed. This is to set the scene for a later call where you may be asked for information.
  • Fraudsters might have done enough research about you to make you believe it’s a genuine call.
  • They might use words like “suspicious” to frighten you, without actually giving you any specific details about what’s happened.
  • Never trust a stranger who tells you to “act fast”. Fraudsters create a false sense of urgency, so you have less time to think about what’s going on.
  • Fraudsters want to appear trustworthy, to make you feel as though they’re on your side. This is so you’ll follow their instructions.
  • You might be asked to install software to protect your information. This gives the fraudsters access and control over your computer screen, so they can see you enter your financial details, like your card number or your Internet Banking login details.
  • Beware of phone spoofing - criminals use sophisticated technology to make the number calling you, appear like it's a genuine number, not their actual caller ID.
  • Don't assume that because the call sounds genuine, that it is - fraudsters often play recorded sounds in the background to make it sound like a call centre.

How to protect yourself

Never give out the following details to anyone over the phone. Even if they claim to be from your financial institution or the police. This also includes typing numbers into your keypad.

  • Your Internet Banking login and password
  • Your Mobile Banking App passcode
  • Your Access Code
  • Secure SMS passcodes
  • Any details from your debit or credit cards
If anyone asks for these, end the call immediately.

Other ways to protect yourself:

  • Never let anyone remotely access your computer.
  • Never download any software or visit a site because someone on the phone has told you to.
  • Don't transfer any money at the request of an unexpected caller over the phone.
  • Always verify the caller using an independently checked phone number, such as a contact number from an official website.
Remember, we will never call you asking for your account details or your log in details for Phone Banking, Mobile Banking or Internet Banking.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, you should:

  • Contact us immediately on (08) 8202 7777
  • Report it to ASIC and the police via cyber.gov.au
  • Change your passwords and PINs straight away if you suspect your security has been compromised
  • Contact IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or via idcare.org. IDCARE is a free, Government-funded service that provides support to victims of identity crime
  • Visit the Scamwatch website for more information on scams.