To continue with passing on information from the Fraud Week campaign we look at phone scams – the most popular form for delivering scams in Australia, now apportioned to over 50 per cent of the overall scams reported. All Australians need to know that their personal information is as valuable as their bank account details. Giving personal information or account details over to people who call on the telephone could leave people vulnerable to identity theft and potential credit file misuse.
By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.
The Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce is urging Australians to slam the phone down on scams following a surge in reports of scams delivered over the phone in 2011. Read more at: Phone No. 1 choice for scam delivery: ‘Slam Scams!’ Fraud Week campaign.
A report released yesterday by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) titled 2011 Targeting Scams revealed a significant shift in scam delivery methods. Whereas the trend in recent years has been for scams delivered online, in 2011 over 50 per cent of scams reported to the ACCC were perpetrated by phone.
The ACCC says consumers and small businesses contacted them almost 43,000 times in 2011 to report scams they had received by phone. Australians lost over $27.7 million dollars to these scams throughout the year.
Common phone scams reported in 2011 included:
Callers pretending to be from government: In 2011 the ACCC saw large numbers of advance fee scams initiated by telephone. Many involved scammers posing as representatives from government departments, for example offering fake grants, rebates or refunds in return for up-front payments.
Callers pretending to be from companies: In 2011 it was also common for scammers to pose as staff from well known companies and organisations asking for personal details, payments or remote access to the victim’s computer. Scammers posed as representatives from banks, computer companies like the recent Microsoft Phone scam, telecommunications services, postal and logistics services, and solar panel installers.
Scam SMS: Text messages are also commonly used by scammers to send competition or prize scams. Scammers often try to snare many people with one SMS sent en masse – this is known as spamming. Scammers may request personal details or payments in scam SMS messages. If you respond, you could also be charged at premium rates or find yourself signed up to a costly subscription service.
Personal information is a valuable commodity. Remember – if someone is calling YOU they should not need to request personal information. If in doubt – hang up!
The ACCC gives this advice for protection against phone scams:
“Be cautious if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from government or a well known company and they request personal details or up-front payments.
If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a call, don’t commit to anything. Instead hang up and call the company or government department directly using their official customer service number to verify that it is genuine. Never use contact details provided by the caller, instead find the number via an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
Never confirm or provide personal details, credit card numbers or other account information over the phone unless you initiated the call and trust the other party.
If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer and requesting remote access – hang up – even if they mention a well-known company. Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
Remember that you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number. Scammers can obtain your number fraudulently from black-market sources,” the ACCC says.
If people think they may have given out personal information or account details to scammers, they should contact the Police immediately. They should also contact their financial institutions to let them know they could be a potential identity theft victim.
They should also contact the credit reporting agencies and request a copy of their credit report. A credit report is free every year and will alert people to any changes on their credit file that they didn’t initiate. They may also be able to ‘flag’ their account to stop activity while the possible identity theft is being investigated.
For help with restoring your credit rating and to remove bad credit history contact MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs on 1300 667 218 or www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.