The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have jointly issued warnings to consumers following a spike in the number of complaints both regulators have received in the past two months about phone scammers.
According to ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, the number of complaints received has risen tenfold from 200 per month to around 2000 across the two agencies.
The most common scams hitting unsuspecting consumers include a phishing scam where callers inform people that their computer has a virus, offering a debug service if the potential victim hands over their credit card details; callers offering products, services and cash under fake government grants; callers trying to acquire bank details to process bank fee refunds or tax refunds; callers requesting fees to add a person’s number on the Do Not Register list; and recorded messages asking consumers to “dial nine” for a ‘free’ vacation.
The warning quickly drew a response from the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, who said he was "particularly concerned" that some scammers were targeting the Do Not Call Register and suggesting consumers pay a fee to register their number.
“I would like to remind consumers that they can quickly and easily register their numbers on the Do Not Call Register for free," he said in a statement.
To avoid falling victim to preying scammers, the ACCC and ACMA have advised Australians to be cautious and not disclose their personal information to anyone over the phone, even if the caller claims to be from a government department or well-known company.
“Consumers can stop themselves being scammed by never disclosing any personal or financial details to these callers,” ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel, said in a statement. “Cutting off the lifeline is the best way to disrupt scammers.”
In the event that people have given their banking details to scammers, victims are advised to contact their bank immediately and to report the scam to the ACCC and the ACMA.