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Scam phone calls – consumer guidance and advice

Security, Internet | 1 March 2021

At MATE, we take your privacy and safety very seriously. We continue to assist Australians in best practice techniques to combat illegal scam calls.

Scam phone calls – what are they?

Scam calls annoy and defraud thousands of Australians each year. Telephone-based calls claim to be from real organisations such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Federal Police (AFP), Microsoft and many more to trick us into believing them.

These scam callers use manipulative and deceiving tactics to attempt to access your equipment or gather private information from you. Scam callers often use threats of a financial penalty or criminal prosecution to manipulate consumers as part of the scam.

Types of scam calls

Examples of some common scam calls include:

  • Calls imitating the Australian Federal Police (AFP). In such a call, you may be asked for assistance to help track down criminals and assist with AFP investigations. You will usually be asked to transfer money overseas using international money transfer services;
  • Calls asking for outstanding bills or debt to be paid. In such a call, the scammer will usually reference popular prepaid gift cards such as Apple iTunes and Westfield Shopping Centre vouchers. They sometimes may state that this is on behalf of a credit agency representing Telstra or the Australian Taxation Office (ATO);
  • Calls imitating support desk staff. In such a call, the scam caller will attempt to access your computer by pretending to know your CLSID, a globally unique identifier that identifies a piece of software. The scam caller will try to pass this off as something only a legitimate support person would know;
  • Calls attempting to trick you into making payments to them or someone you may know;
  • Calling you and hanging up immediately in the hope that you will call back – costing you money;
  • With the move to working from home, scammers are impersonating parcel delivery companies to try get address, consumer information or ask you to go to a dangerous webpage or download a dangerous app;
  • Calls claiming to be from an organisation you trust. In such a call, the scammer will ask for your personal details to try and access your private information;
  • Calls advising that you have won a prize or that there is a sum of money waiting for you.

Minimising the risk of scam calls

If a call or text sounds too good to be true, it usually is. To reduce the risk of being scammed, ensure you:

  • Never share any personal information with someone you do not know;
  • Never provide any information to someone who is asking to access your computer or any other devices;
  • Contact your bank or financial institution immediately if you believe you have been scammed;
  • Block callers – you can usually do this on your mobile phone handset;
  • Use a security password or screen lock on your mobile phone handset;
  • Check your text messages carefully. Look for things that don’t look right, such as bad spelling, strange sender name or unknown number;
  • Put a lock on your home mailbox – this way, people can’t steal mail that may give information about your identity;
  • Check if an unknown number is from an official source by checking online. Typing the number into a search engine like Google might come up with
  • details about the owner of the phone number;
  • Carefully choose who you share personal details with online and update privacy settings on social media;
  • Regularly update any PINs and passwords for any online services.

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 answer if you don’t know who it is. Let the call go to voicemail first. 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;
  • Don’t ever send money;
  • Don’t ever tell anyone your personal details—passwords or other sensitive information.
  • Don’t ever let someone take control of your computer;

Blocking numbers of unwanted callers or SMS scammers

The vast majority of scam calls received today are via your mobile handset. There are two main software packages on phones, so blocking calls will be slightly different on each. To help keep things safe, we recommend:

  • iPhone/Apple device

Always ensure that you have the latest version of iOS installed. To block a number, navigate to the recent calls menu, then select the ‘information’. At the bottom there is a block number option. Select this and the number will be permanently blocked.

  • Android/Google device

Click on the phone call making app and navigate to the recent calls list. From there, select the information – that takes you to the phone numbers Info. At the bottom there is an option to block the number permanently.

If you receive scam calls on your ADSL landline or nbn phone (VoIP) service, please let our support team know. We can notify the network operator to flag these dangerous and annoying numbers.

Products and services to help

There are a number of products and services that you can use to minimise the risk of being affected by scams. These include:

  • Setting up an app to filter and detect spam calls. Visit your device’s app store and download an app that detects and blocks spam phone calls. You can download and install multiple apps with this feature from different app developers, but be wary of the app you install – make sure you read reviews and feedback before installing;
  • Register your phone number on the Do Not Call Register. This is a free service where consumers can securely register their home, mobile or fax numbers for free to reduce unsolicited telemarketing calls. You can find more information and register here: https://www.donotcall.gov.au;
  • Get the latest software updates on your devices. Keeping your software up to date is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your product’s security. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone or tablet, your operating system will constantly release security updates that may protect against issues;
  • Download and run a free antivirus and malware removal tool. Choose a reputable company such as Norton – such a tool will use a more intensive method to scan your computer to detect complex threats that could help prevent being scammed.

Think you have been scammed? Take action

If you think you have received a scam call, you can report this to the ACCC via the following link: https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam‘.

If you have been threatened or property stolen, contact the police immediately.

If you think your bank info or card PINs have been compromised, or a payment to a scammer has been made – contact your financial institution immediately. They can assist you.

If in doubt, change all PINs or password that may have been risked.

When interacting over the phone or internet, always be sceptical of things that don’t look or feel right.

You can also find more information on scam calls and general safety online via the following links:

If you have received a suspicious email, call or SMS related to MATE, you can report this to us by clicking here.

UPDATED – March 2021