More and more Aussies are falling victim to phone scams.
More and more Aussies are falling victim to phone scams.

How phone scams actually work

IMPERSONATORS claiming to be from the Australian Taxation Office are the most common type of phone scamming, but rising remote access scams mean fraudsters are pretending to be from Telstra, the NBN and Microsoft.

If you've been getting random calls from a private or unknown number asking if you're having problems with your internet software, visa status or tax, then you're part of the nearly 20,000 people falling victim to phone scamming this year - who have already lost $11 million.

The consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed a 298 per cent increase in reported financial losses to remote access scams alone - with $591,553 in the first quarter of 2017 (January to April) rising to $2.3 million in 2018.

"The scammers are good at reinventing or changing the scam to find new ways to targeting victims - such as using technology "spoof" (copying) the number of a well-known brand or government organisation," an ACCC spokesman said.

"Remote access scammers try to convince people that there is a problem with their computer or internet and that they need to buy new software to fix the problem.

"The scammer will phone people and pretend to be a staff member from a large telecommunications or computer company, such as Telstra, the NBN or Microsoft - and will then request remote access to their victim's computer to 'find out what the problem is'."

Phone scammers are also using the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Department of Human Services or Centrelink and the Australian Federal Police to steal your information.


More and more Aussies are falling victim to phone scams.
More and more Aussies are falling victim to phone scams.


"In other instances, scammers may tell people that there are problems with their visa status, and threaten deportation unless fees are paid to correct the errors; or threaten a change in welfare benefits," the spokesman said.

The two common scam categories where people overwhelmingly report scammers contacting them by phone are phishing and identity theft.

Many phishing scams involve impersonation of trusted brands. Investment scams conducted by phone resulted in the highest losses of $17 million in 2017, the spokesman said.

"It can be quite frightening for people when confronted with the possibility of arrest or that their computer has a significant problem. This worry can lead to them not questioning if it may be a scammer calling them."

The ACCC recommends ignoring unfamiliar numbers or hanging up immediately if you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer and remote access is requested.

"Even if they mention a well-known company such as Telstra - Telstra does not request credit card details over the phone to fix computer or telephone problems, and is not affiliated with any companies that do," the spokesman said.

"Remember that you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number or have listed your number on the Australian Government's Do Not Call Register - scammers can obtain your number fraudulently."



  • Scammers will call via a private number or number similar to the organisation they're using to scam you
  • They will pretend to be a staff member from, usually, a government organisation
  • They will try to convince you that there is a problem with your (for example) visa status, their computer or internet and have you give credit card details or other personal/ identity information to fix the problem
  • Some will even request remote access to your computer to 'find out what the problem is'
  • It is important to either not pick up unknown numbers or just hang up
  • Remember companies like Telstra, Microsoft or NBN never request over the phone details
  • Contact if you want to report an incident or find out more information