Cyber crime

The most common phone scams in Australia

Shanna Hall
6 Min
Phone scams in Australia

If you’ve been noticing an increase in the number of phone scams in Australia, you’re not alone. The number of people reporting scams through the ScamWatch site has risen by 41% over recent months when compared to the same period last year. The average cost of losses to scams reached an eye-watering amount of $16,485 per report.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australians lost more than $3 billion to scams in 2022, 80% more than the year before. While text message scams might have been the most common, the highest losses were recorded through fraudulent phone calls. Since many Australians use their smartphones for both business and personal use, scammers are finding creative ways to get their targets to take action.

One of the key factors behind this rise in scams is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools. AI has really changed the game for scammers and it’s forcing consumers to be more mindful with messages and calls. Some of these latest scams don’t come with the telltale signs of previous attempts, such as poor spelling, bad grammar or unprofessional phrasing.

There are also new types of AI-enhanced phone calls that are causing concern globally. The AI tools are used to clone the style and sound of the voice of someone you know or are connected to. Fraudsters then pretend to be that person, saying they are in an emergency and need access to money. These can be very convincing, as the audio is often cloned from social media for accuracy, and used to create a sense of urgency and fool unwary consumers. 

All the latest phone scams in Australia in 2024

Being aware of common scams and increasing your vigilance is becoming more critical to keep your finances safe and avoid scams. Let’s run through some of the latest scams reported around Australia, and learn some new ways to stay ahead of phone-based scammers.

Qantas points scams

The National Anti-Scam Centre was launched by the ACCC in July 2023 to combat scams and to coordinate the response from government, law enforcement and the private sector. One of the first major phishing scams it uncovered was the Qantas Points scam. This scam tactic targeted Qantas Frequent Flyer points by luring Qantas customers to a phishing, or fake copy of the website, using text messages pretending to be from the airline. After consumers logged in with their details, their frequent flyer points would then be cashed out by the scammers, leaving none behind.

Flubot scams

These SMS scams aren’t offering free flu vaccines as the name might suggest. Instead, it’s the name for a type of malware that targets iPhone and Android devices. While the text messages do vary, they each contain a link with 5-9 random numbers. These messages often ask you to click a link to download an app, track a delivery, hear a voicemail message, or view photos that have been uploaded. Clicking on the malicious link downloads malware that steals personal information and contacts, which helps to spread the scam even further.

Impersonation scams

By pretending to be a message or a call from trusted organisations, like banks, government agencies, or even an employer, scammers hope that consumers will let their guard down and share sensitive information. They will often use a sense of urgency or other scare tactics to trick people into handing over pins, passwords and account details or get them to make a fraudulent payment. In Australia, the scammers are most likely to pretend to be someone from Telstra, any of the big four banks, NBN, Amazon or eBay.

Job scams

These are targeted scams where fraudulent recruiters pretend to represent legitimate companies and offer attractive job opportunities to their victims. The financial catch comes when after selling the person on the job opportunity, there are either upfront fees or personal information requests that can lead to further exploitation. These scams often begin through messaging platforms or through social media offering part-time or work-from-home opportunities that are too good to be true.

Other recurring themes in scams found in Australia are around investments, romance and extortion. Regardless of the type of scam or the style of approach they use, there are two main aims that scammers want to achieve. They either want to find a way to gain your trust and get you to hand over personal information or finances without a second thought, or they want to create a false sense of urgency that can lead to poor decisions.

Tips to stay ahead of scammers

Try these tips to stay safer and avoid falling victim to scam messages or phone calls.

Lock down your information and stay up-to-date

Lock down your information on social media and keep your smartphone’s operating system up to date. Security settings can revert or change with updates to apps and systems. It’s a good idea to give yourself an online security checkup at least once a year, providing a chance to review your security settings across social media platforms.

Be suspicious of unexpected messages or calls

You should be wary of unexpected calls from unknown numbers, especially if the caller is requesting personal or financial information. Start from a place of zero trust until you can establish their authenticity.

Avoid clicking on links in messages altogether

Rather than not clicking on a link because it looks suspicious, it’s better to have an initial mindset of not clicking on links in text messages at all. Most banks and some larger organisations no longer send any text messages with links as a rule.

Verify contacts

If you receive a message or call from an organisation claiming to be your bank, utility provider, or government agency, verify their identity through official channels before responding, or better yet follow the tip below.

Call companies back

If an unexpected caller or text message wants you to call a number, do it on your terms. It’s important to source your own number for the company and to not use numbers provided by a caller, text message or a website that you might have visited using a provided link. It takes a little extra time out of your day, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind.

Keep everyone well-informed

If you’ve been affected by a scam, you can report it online at the multi-agency site, ReportCyber. If you haven’t been affected by a scam but want to report it, you can do this through ScamWatch.

But prevention often comes down to awareness. Scams are specifically designed to catch people off-guard and at their most distracted, so strong awareness is critical for preventing problematic actions that can put you or your organisation at risk. For finance leaders, this means regular staff training but also cultivating a broader security culture, in which people feel comfortable to ask questions or quickly notify security teams if they think they may have clicked on the wrong link.

At Eftsure, we work hard to protect B2B payments through our end-to-end payment protection software. Our multi-factor verification approach lowers your risk of financial losses due to cybercrime, fraud or error. Whether at home or work, we hope that being aware of these types of scams will help you, your business, and your loved ones safe.

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