Telstra has warned consumers about a four-fold increase in scammers seeking to gather personal information over the phone in the past year, with phishing scams in particular on the rise.
The news comes after an ACCC report released last year estimated $93 million was reported as being lost to scams each year, with the ACCC receiving nearly 84,000 reports of scams from consumers and small businesses in 2012.
A phishing attack is when a hacker impersonates a trustworthy institution, such as a bank or a phone company, through an email message or phone call in order to get victims to hand over sensitive personal or financial information, such as passwords or credit card details.
In the latest incarnation, customers are being told their computers are infected with a virus, and they need to pay Telstra technical support to fix the problem. The scammers then ask the victims for their personal banking details.
In a statement, Telstra’s executive director of customer advocacy, Peter Jamieson, said the increase over the past 12 months is a concern for the carrier.
“The increasing number of these telephone scams is concerning and customers should be alert to any attempts to trick them into disclosing their credit card or banking details over the telephone,” said Jamieson.
“Telstra is encouraging its customers to protect their personal information and be particularly wary of telephone calls from numbers they don’t recognise,” he said.
A spokeswoman from the Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed to SmartCompany there has been an increase in the number of calls reported from scammers claiming to be from Telstra.
“We noticed an increase in reports from people with numbers listed on the Do Not Call Register about receiving calls from scammers pretending to be from Telstra / Bigpond (or working for Telstra) at the beginning of 2014. The scam calls seemed to be a variation of the PC Virus calls,” the spokeswoman says.
“The number of complaints we were getting about this scam accounted for about 15% of all complaints to the Do Not Call Register, so quite high.”
“We spoke with Telstra about these calls and issued a consumer alert on 26 March on Facebook, which included a link to our website describing the typical anatomy of the PC virus / tech support scam calls.”
The spokeswoman says PC Virus scam calls including the Telstra twist are now running at about 10-12% and have actually stabilised over recent months.
“Since the start of 2014, the ACMA has also experienced a general increase in reports from consumers on the Do Not Call Register about scam calls. While reports of scam calls accounted for about 10-15% of all complaints in 2013 – that number is about 20% so far in 2014,” the spokeswoman says.
“The most common scam calls reported to us to date in 2014 are: PC Virus scam calls (including with a Telstra/BigPond twist), The Qantas/Virgin Dial 1 scam calls and investment/bank reclaim scam calls.”
The spokeswoman says it’s important to remember that listing your number on the Do Not Call Register will not necessarily stop spam calls to that number.
“Consumers need to be vigilant to the possibility of a scam when receiving any unsolicited call to their number.”
Small businesses should report scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission via the SCAMwatch website at www.scamwatch.gov.au or to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
In addition, Telstra says that customers who suspect a phishing scam originates at a Telstra account can report the scam through its official misuse of service form, on 132200 or through the Telstra 24 x 7 app.