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NZ telco industry's two golden rules for avoiding phone scams

17 Nov 2020

This week marks International Fraud Awareness Week, and the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) wants Kiwis to know that there are ‘two golden rules’ when it comes to avoiding scam phone calls.

TCF CEO Geoff Thorn says the first rule is to go with your instinct.

“If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. Hang up and report the call to your phone provider.”

The second rule is to be wary of any organisation that contacts you without warning.

“A telecommunications company [such as Spark or Vodafone] would never call a customer out of the blue and request remote access to their devices. If this happens to you, it is a scam, and the best action you can take is to hang up,” Thorn says.

The only time a telco will request remote access is if a customer calls them and asks them to troubleshoot a technical issue.

“So, the request will always be initiated by the customer and additional security measures will be in place. Similarly, a telco would never ask for credit card details over the phone to fix or diagnose a problem.”

But be extra careful about educating vulnerable family members about these dangers.

“Scam callers can be clever and persuasive, and in particular like to target those who may be more vulnerable. We are encouraging Kiwis to check in with their friends and family who might fall into this category and help them be more aware of the sorts of scams that are around,” says Thorn.

So, what kinds of common scams should people be listening for? TCF outlines six common scams:

"Wangiri" (One Ring) fraud 

Typically a missed call from an overseas number, with caller hanging up after one ring or less. The intention of the scammer is to entice you to call back, upon which you are charged premium rates from the overseas provider while a message plays to encourage you to stay on the line for as long as possible. 

Best action - do not call an unknown overseas number back, wait for the caller to contact you again to ensure it is genuine.

"Technical support" scam

Scammers will often purport to be from a trusted provider (often a computer company or your telecommunications provider) seeking to gain remote access to your computer to “fix” some issue, or to sell unnecessary and overpriced “support packages”.  Usually, these callers are from overseas but disguise themselves by routing their call through a New Zealand phone number. 

Best action - hang up and contact the company directly on their number listed in the phone book or on their website.

“Government grant” scam

Calls made from someone offering free money in the form of a Government grant or similar. 

Best action - hang up and contact the organisation directly on their number listed in the phone book or on their website.

“Inland Revenue” scam

Calls made from someone claiming to be from the IRD, and attempting to collect payment over the phone. 

Best action - hang up and contact the IRD directly on their number listed in the phone book or on their website.

“Telco provider” scam

Calls made from someone claiming to be from your telecommunications provider, and attempting to collect payment over the phone on billing arrears, may be made by scammers. 

Best action - hang up and contact the company directly on their number listed in the phone book or on their website.

“Targeted impersonation” scam

Impersonation scams come in several guises (commonly police or community scams). The defining characteristic of these scams is that scammers will specifically target you and your friends/family members as victims. These scams may be elaborate and involve several steps in order to research and capture your personal information. 

Best action – if you receive a suspicious call, do not engage with the caller, but hang up immediately and report the suspicious call to the Police.

Thorn adds that while the scams listed above are common, scams are always evolving. He suggests people check out the TCF website to keep up-to-date on phone scam information.