I rarely use our fixed phone at home these days. Friends and family always contact me via mobile.
In fact, the only people who call our home phone are scammers. Last week, I got a dozen or more scam calls, all of which falsely claimed to be from Australian telecommunications company Telstra.
When you pick up, you get a recorded message warning that your Internet service is about to be cut off.
Here’s a transcript of one of the messages:
This is a notification from Telstra to inform you that your Internet service will be terminated from today onward. If you want to speak to Telstra, press 1. If you wish to terminate now, press 2.
Other versions of the message add the claim that your service is being terminated because your computer is sending out viruses or has been hacked.
The messages sound as if they were created using text-to-speech software and feature a female voice with a refined British accent.
Of course, the purpose of the messages is to panic you into pressing “1” in the mistaken belief that your service is about to be cut off.
If you do press “1”, you will be connected to a live scammer who will sternly reprimand you for allowing your computer to distribute viruses. (Pressing “2” just hangs up).
The scammers will warn you that you must deal with the supposed virus infection immediately or your account will be terminated. He/she will further claim that, if you don’t comply, Telstra will take legal action against you to protect its network and customers.
The scammer will then magnanimously offer to help you deal with the problem if you are willing to pay a support fee using your credit card.
After you have paid, the scammer may then instruct you to download and install remote access software. This software lets the scammer take control of your computer, install malware, and access your personal files.
At the end of the process, the scammer will declare that the virus problem has been dealt with and disappear with your money. And the malware he/she placed on your computer will continue to allow online criminals to control your computer from afar.
The scammers apparently use the recorded message tactic in an effort to save time by weeding out non-believers. If you know that the call is a scam, you’ll likely just hang up. But, if you fall for the ruse and press “1”, the scammer will know that they have a potential victim on the line and can proceed accordingly.
If you receive one of these calls, just hang up the phone.
If you are concerned that the call may have been legitimate, end the call and then contact the service provider directly. However, do not use any phone numbers that may be included in the recorded message. Instead, find a phone number for the provider via a legitimate source such as a phone directory or bill. If the call was legitimate, then the staff member that you contact should have a record of the problem and be able to assist you.
Telstra may sometimes contact you by phone to discuss issues with your account or outline new plan or service options. However, the company will never demand that you pay an immediate fee over the phone to deal with a supposed virus problem or receive tech support. Nor will they ask you to download software that gives them access to your computer.
Do not trust any call that makes such demands.
Note that scammers posing as tax agents also use the recorded message tactic.
Phone scammers often demand that people pay with store gift card such as an iTunes card rather than a credit card. They will instruct victims to go out and buy the gift cards and then call back with the card numbers.
The scammers can then use the card code to purchase goods, services, and subscriptions via online app stores
Scammers are using this method because gift card purchases cannot be easily traced back to offenders. If victims pay using the cards, it will usually be impossible for them to get their money back.