Louise Hyland, CEO Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA)
Faster mobile networks and 5G have increased the number of connected devices within our homes and workplaces, along with the platforms on which we communicate. Unfortunately, this has also increased the number of devices and platforms through which scammers try to communicate and deceive consumers.
Scams Awareness Week 2022 takes place this week, from 7-11 November 2022, and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) is taking the opportunity to remind all Australians of the importance of remaining vigilant and learning to identify scams as they present themselves.
Each year, scams cost Australian businesses and consumers hundreds of millions of dollars while also taking a considerable emotional toll on victims and their families. Scamwatch clocked over 286,000 reports in 2021, and losses were reported to be around $324 million during this period. For 2022, reported losses had already exceeded $381 million by August.
Australia’s mobile telecommunications industry is focused on stopping scams from reaching consumers, so that their information is protected and they feel safe using their devices. For example, since late 2020 mobile network operators have blocked over half a billion scam calls. The mobile operators share information about scams with other telecommunications companies and report identified scams to authorities. They’re also a great source of information for customers when they need help managing and reporting scams.
While the mobile industry has prevented the delivery of millions of scam calls and text messages, the best prevention is knowing how to detect and avoid scams when they pop up.
Here are AMTA’s top tips for protecting yourself against scammers.
Be on the lookout for impersonations
If you receive any kind of contact from an unknown number or identity, never reply without verifying the user and, more importantly, never provide personal or financial information if requested over the phone. Make sure you also don’t click on unknown links or open attachments from unknown senders, simply delete them. Scammers often pretend to be people that you would be likely to trust so, if in doubt, contact whoever the message claims to be directly by a number you know is theirs (not always the number provided in the message).
Sometimes, impersonation scams can extend to shopping websites, dating apps and other highly used sites – you can learn about the diverse ways scams occur in the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams.
Protect personal information
Never give out personal details like passwords, PINs, bank or credit card details in response to any unexpected communications without verifying who the contact is first. If in doubt, hang up and call the business or individual back on a number that you know is theirs.
Two factor authentication is also a great way to add an extra layer of security to sensitive data as it double-checks your identity before letting you use a particular account, such as social media or email.
Be careful what you install
Make sure that any apps you install are from a trusted source such as the Apple App Store or Google Play, as these often have permission to access your personal information on your phone once installed.
Using your Facebook profile to create new accounts (such as those used for dating sites or streaming services) allows these services to access any public information on your profile. Remember to regularly log into Facebook and check which apps have access to your profile and remove the ones you no longer need.
Up your security level
Be sure to understand the security functions of your mobile devices, and keep all software updated – phone manufacturers regularly update their system software to combat malware. If you can, installing anti-virus software is also a great way to protect your information and deter scammers.
Phone scams, spams and malware rarely discriminate, and affect millions of Australians every year. Not only are they a nuisance, but they can significantly impact everyday consumers and businesses in devastating ways.
With Australians more connected than ever before, it’s crucial everyone is enjoying virtually instantaneous connections to the network, as well as greater connectivity on the move, in a safe and protected manner.
If you are affected by a phone scam, please report it to the ACCC through its Scamwatch website. AMTA recommends you contact your network service provider for advice on spam filtering or phone blocking.