The number of scams being offered over the phone has exploded in the past two months by 1000 per cent, according to Government regulators.
A joint statement from the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), said complaints about phone scams have jumped from 200 per month to 2000 in the past two months alone.
The problem is getting so bad the two bodies are telling Australians to immediately hang up if they suspect a call is a scam, rather than stay on the line to get more information.
ACMA executive, Jane Cole, said it was the most number of scam complaints her regulatory body had seen since it began monitoring complaints in 2007. She said the sudden increase was probably due to a rise in people falling for the cons.
“It’s an unprecedented increase,” she said. “We’ve never seen this many scam calls in a month before.”
Cole said scammers were using Government agencies like the Australian Tax Office and her organisation’s Do Not Call register as a way of convincing people to part with their details and money over the phone.
“A new one is scammers offering to register people on the Do Not Call register for a fee, which is particularly concerning given it’s a free Government service that people don’t need to pay for,” she said. “Unsolicited calls from government organisations don’t happen very often and you should be very careful about them.”
Cole said the vast majority of scams were coming from overseas and that the Government was working with overseas police bodies to catch the scammers. But she added that was very hard to catch the slippery operators.
“They’re the kind of operations that can start up overnight and shut down the next day,” she said. “We do what we can to stop the scams but we also need consumers to play their part.
“Over the phone you just don’t know who you’re talking to.”
Scams the regulatory bodies are particularly worried about include calls that:
- Tell users their computers are infected with viruses
- Offer products, services or cash under fake Government grants
- Seek bank details to process a bank fee or tax refund
- Play recorded messages asking consumers to ‘dial 9’ for a free holiday