The phone rings with a number that appears to be from your local area, so you answer.
But something is off. You quickly realise you have been fooled into answering the call of yet another scammer.
It is a common experience for countless Australians as criminals turn to “neighbour spoofing” to dupe unsuspecting victims into answering calls.
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The sneaky new technique allows scammers to mask their identity and appear as a number the victim may assume is a local business or someone they know.
In the past two years, Australian telcos have blocked about 800 million scam calls from reaching customers.
Research shows the average Australian receives five scam calls, emails or messages a week, adding up to more than 250 attempts a year.
While many phone customers say phone scams are easily recognisable, experts warn of the increasing use of “neighbour spoofing”.
It works as a social engineering tactic designed to increase the chance of victims picking up the phone.
“Neighbour spoofing is when scammers use reliable-looking phone numbers to make users answer their call and trust them,” NordVPN cyber security expert Daniel Markuson said.
“When the victims pick up the call, scammers will try to talk them into giving away some of their personal information or perform some action like a money transfer.”
Scammers know someone is more likely to pick up a phone number from an area they recognise, meaning the caller has more chances to get someone on the line by hiding behind legitimate numbers.
Telstra says “neighbour spoofing” is a global problem that has been on the rise in recent years.
“For example, if your number is 0400 000 000, they may call you from 0400 000 001 to increase the chances you’ll pick up,” Telstra says.
“And some people have been called by what looks their own number. If you have experienced this, the scammer has spoofed your number and by chance has called you as a potential victim, so that it looks like you are calling yourself.
“Rest assured we are working on solutions to prevent as much spoofing as possible.”
Markuson says anyone who answers a call and realises it is fraudulent should hang up immediately.
“It is pointless to engage in conversation with scammers because their usual goal is to steal information,” he said, adding to check whether your phone carrier provides blocking options.
If you think the call might be legitimate but you have any suspicions, experts say to never give out your details or perform any actions requested by the caller.
Report scam calls or messages to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch.
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