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Scam warning: If in doubt, don’t give your personal details out

Scams work because victims provide their personal information to the scammer so a scammer can impersonate them. It is vitally important you are vigilant with your personal information, especially when someone you don’t know is asking for it.

If you have been scammed and require immediate help contact ID Care, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service. 

Spotting a scam  

Spotting a scam can be tricky. Scammers constantly change and evolve their methods and are skilled at convincing people they are acting with good faith. However, there are some questions you can ask yourself and little signs to look out for to help you spot scams:  

  • Does this offer sound too good to be true?  
  • Have you been offered incentives, like a free gift, to agree to what they are asking or provide details of other people for them to contact?  
  • If you receive any written correspondence, are there spelling mistakes? Does the sender email address look unusual or suspicious?  
  • Are you being asked to do anything that seems unusual?

Phone deals that are too good to be true

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has noticed a recent trend in complaints from consumers who voluntarily gave their personal information to a scammer to buy a mobile phone plan that was too good to be true.

We receive many complaints each year from consumers who have fallen victim to scams. The scams we see constantly evolve and change, varying in sophistication and how they target victims.  

Some scammers focus on gaining access to consumers’ account details and personal information to order mobile phones and tablets or swap sim cards. Scammers can also use this information to access other services like bank and email accounts.   

How does the scam work?  

Based on our complaints experience and systemic investigation work, we know there are some common elements to the scam.  

The cold call 

The consumer receives an unsolicited call from the scammer pretending to be from a real organisation, usually a mobile comparison website or mobile phone reseller.  

The scammer offers the consumer a great deal for a new phone or tablet, and asks the consumer for a variety of pieces of personal information. In some cases, consumers are providing copies of their ID to the scammers. In others, consumers are providing their personal details including bank details and passwords.  

The order is made  

The scammer completes an online order for a new plan including phone or tablet with a telecommunications provider, in the consumer’s name.  

When placing the order, the scammer makes a deliberate mistake. They will often order a different handset to the one they say they will organise for the consumer.  

The delivery

The handset is usually delivered to the consumer’s address. The scammer contacts the victim to say they made a mistake in ordering the wrong handset and offers to correct this mistake. The scammer asks consumer to send the handset or tablet back to “the warehouse”, often a residential address. The consumer sends the device to this address and hears nothing more from the scammer.  

We have also seen cases where the handset is instead delivered directly to the scammer’s address.  

The fallout

Eventually the consumer is contacted by the telecommunications provider who the scammer signed up with on their behalf and is chased for payment for a new mobile phone and plan.  

Scam busting tips

Here are some more general tips to help you protect you from scammers:  

  • If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  
  • Don’t ever give out or confirm information about yourself unless you are satisfied the person you are speaking with is who they say they are.  
  • If you are ever unsure about the identity of the person you are speaking with, end the conversation and contact the company they say they represent to confirm their identity.  
  • It is not rude to question someone who wants your information. If you have doubts ask why they want that information, what do they need it for, do you really need to provide it?  
  • Never share passwords and other account security information like PINs.
  • If you lose your wallet or discover your identity has been stolen, immediately notify all your financial institutions and other service providers. Change your passwords and obtain a copy of your credit report.  
  • Report any scams to your local police and Scamwatch.