Five ways to spot a scam call

Our simple advice is: if you think you’re receiving a scam call, hang up. But how do you know if it’s a scam call? There are some clear signs that you can spot to help you stay safe from scammers – as long as you stay sceptical too.
Darren Pauli · 23 February 2022 · 4 minute read

We’re now blocking around 3 million suspected scam calls a week, and around 13 million every month around Australia. We recently rolled out a new capability to make SMS safer too, with the first impact being to block illegitimate messages pretending to be from Services Australia from reaching Telstra customers’ phones. It’s part of our Cleaner Pipes initiative, where we’re working to reduce the harm of scams, phishing, ransomware and other malware across our networks. We’re doing a lot behind the scenes to block illegitimate activity, but there’s a lot that you can do too.

We know that scam callers often prey on the public’s inexperience about complex or highly technical topics, and will try to confuse you and pressure you to act quickly to transfer money or share your private details without giving you time to think rationally.

Your best weapon in our ongoing fight against scammers is your own scepticism and caution. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are five ways to spot scam calls as they’re happening. Remember, our advice is simply to hang up if you think you’re being scammed.

Five tips for spotting a scam call

Don’t be convinced if it looks like an incoming call is from a legitimate business or government organisation.

Do you sometimes get calls coming in on your mobile phone that look like they’re from the Australian Taxation Office or a Government department? Don’t be fooled – this is a tactic known as ‘spoofing’ and is used by some scammers to lure you into a false sense of security. If you’re not expecting a call from the organisation trying to reach you, our advice is to let it ring out. If they really need to speak to you, they’ll find another way. If you’re concerned that you might be getting caught in a con using the details of a business you already know and use, you can call them – on a phone number that you can confirm independently – for extra security.

Is the caller pressuring you and making it seem like the matter is urgent?

Creating a sense of urgency is a sign that the call could be a scam. Some scammers try to trick you into thinking that if you don’t hand over financial information or pay an ‘outstanding debt’ then something terrible will happen, like the matter being referred to the Police for example. The other popular scam to look out for is if a caller says that your computer has a virus or is infecting other computers. Be very suspicious of calls of this nature. Hang up or you can ask them for their details and say you will call them back. If it’s a scam, the chances are they’ll put more pressure on you or hang up.

Take note of the time of day – is it a reasonable time for a trusted organisation to be calling you?

We know that scammers sometimes try to impersonate Telstra. As a reminder, if Telstra is legitimately calling you, we will only call between 9am–8pm Monday to Friday, and 10am–3pm Saturday wherever you are based, and not on a Sunday. The exception to this is if you have an unpaid account or a customer-initiated inquiry with respect to an order, fault or complaint – if so, someone from Telstra may call you outside of these hours. We will also never ask for control of your computer in an unsolicited call either.

Is an unknown number or trusted brand trying to call you repeatedly?

This is a hallmark of a scam call. If you don’t know the number, letting it go to voicemail is an option. If it’s legitimate, they’ll leave a message. We know that’s not always realistic so if you can’t screen your calls, be wary of calls from numbers you don’t recognise or weren’t expecting.

The golden rule: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If someone is calling you about an opportunity or about winning a prize (especially one you don’t remember entering!), it’s probably a scam.

Remember, if you think you’re receiving a scam call, just hang up. If you’re not sure about whether you’re speaking to a real business or a scammer, take their details and say you’ll call them back. Whatever you do, don’t provide personal information or bank account information to anyone who you weren’t expecting a call from or don’t know – regardless of who they say they are. A healthy dose of scepticism might just save you from a scam call!

If you think you might have been scammed, contact us – especially if the scam involved impersonating Telstra – and we can help secure your account.


By Darren Pauli

Security Special Projects

Darren is an information security reporter with more than a decade's experience in the beat. He came to Telstra's cyber security unit after serving as an infosec correspondent for various tech-focused publications. You'll find Darren in his spare time pursuing all things fitness and breaking things on his motorbike and around the house.

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