Telephone Scams

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Understanding telephone scams 

Telephone scammers will claim to be from a legitimate organisation, most commonly government agencies, banks, telcos or broadband services, utility providers, online retailers or streaming services. Most often the scammer will call you, but sometimes you may accidentally call them if you have found the wrong number online or are responding to fake "pop-up" warnings on your screen.

Telephone scammers:

  1. Deceive individuals into providing personal information and payment details over the phone; and
  2. May deceive individuals into providing remote access to their devices, enabling them to harvest information, make transactions, and/or install malicious software. 
Quick Facts
  • 1 in 5 callers to IDCARE are seeking support following a telephone scam.
  • Of these clients, over one third will have had their devices remotely accessed by the scammer.
  • Scammers may know some of your personal information, such as you name and address, and use this to 'verify' your identity. Remember that this information is often publicly available, or may have been previously exposed in a data breach.
  • Per annum, callers to IDCARE report a total loss of over $30 million to telephone scammers, with an average loss of $10 956.
  • Scam calls can be made and received from landline and mobile numbers.
  • Being on the "Do not Call" register will not stop scammers - it will only stop honest telemarketers calling you.
  • Good organisations won’t call you and then ask you to prove your identity.
  • Don’t feel pressured to act. You will never be called to “prevent being arrested” or to “assist police to catch a hacker.”
  • If you think a call may be legitimate, take down the person’s name and number and do your own research regarding the organisation and its contact details. Make sure when you hang up you hear a dial tone – some scammers will pretend to hang up only to wait for you to dial the real organisation’s number and pretend to answer the phone again (when they haven’t disconnected from the original call).
  • Don’t think a message left on your voicemail is more legitimate, it is not.
  • Hang up if you suspect it is a scam and talk to family or friends about it.
  • Do not download apps or software (such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer), follow technology instructions on your devices, or allow remote access to your device to someone who has called you.
  • Consider changing your phone settings to only allow calls from numbers listed in your “Contacts”. Some phones will silence calls from “unknown” numbers and send them straight to voicemail, while others will block these calls completely. There are also apps that you can download to further screen your calls. Be aware that these changes will also prevent legitimate callers from numbers that are not in your Contact list or Recent call log.

Detection - Is this a telephone scam?

If you are concerned that the call may be a scam, hang up.  Some signs that the call may not be legitimate include:

  • A cold call from an individual claiming to be from a well-known government agency or private sector organisation.
  • The caller requests that you prove your identity.
  • The caller claims to be from the police or a government agency and is threatening your arrest if you do not respond.
  • The caller claims to be from law enforcement, the government, a bank or an internet provider. They need your assistance to catch a scammer or hacker. They may claim to require access to your device and/or bank accounts.
  • The caller claims to be from your bank regarding problems with your accounts, such as fraudulent activity.
  • The caller claims your account has been overcharged, and they need to reverse these charges.
  • The caller claims that your computer has a virus and you must pay money to have it removed. They may also request remote access to your device.
  • The caller directs you to purchase gift cards or cryptocurrency, or make transactions from your bank account.
  • The caller coaches you in what to say to the customer service operators at your bank or shops when transacting or making a purchase.
  • The caller tells you not to hang up and/or not to disconnect your device from the internet for a period of time.
  • The caller becomes aggressive when you do not act quickly or provide them with the information they request.

Response - What do I do if I gave the scammer information or provided remote access? 
  • If the scammer gained remote access to your device, disconnect it from the internet immediately.
  • Contact and advise you banks and any other financial institutions of the telephone scam, and request increased security on your accounts.
  • Contact the legitimate organisation that the scammer claimed to be calling from, and request additional security on your account.

Relevant IDCARE Fact Sheets

You may also find the following fact sheets useful:

For additional support or information, contact IDCARE by submitting a Get Help Form or call 1800 595 160 (Aus) or 0800 121 068 (NZ).


Identity Care Australia & New Zealand Ltd (IDCARE) provides identity and cyber security incident response services (the Services) in accordance with the following disclaimer of service:

  • IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber incident community support service. IDCARE is a not-for-profit and registered Australian charity.
  • The Services provided do not constitute legal advice. IDCARE recommends that you consult your own legal counsel in relation to your legal rights and obligations, including but not limited to your legal rights or obligations under Australian and international privacy and data protection laws.
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IDCARE is here to provide you with specialist support and guidance when faced with a cyber and identity related issue. Contact one of our Identity & Cyber Security Case Managers to learn more about our Support Services and how we can help you.   

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