Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

International scammers come a calling as Wangiri callback scam returns

It may well be the most wonderful time of the year, but scammers are trying to make it their most lucrative, as call-back scams return.

We can’t go a week without seeing a scam, but it’s no wonder, especially given how many Australians are getting scammed out of serious money lately.

According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, Australians lost a staggering $455 million in 2023 up to November, and the year hasn’t even been completely tabulated yet. That is a staggering amount of money from over 280,000 reports, and it clearly won’t include every incident of scams. Some scam just won’t be reported, though clearly many will.

Throughout the year, we’ve seen many scams, from fake concert tickets to pretend versions of celebrities trying to be your friends to fake versions of your actual friends, all doing their hardest to convince you to give them money. And some people clearly do.

It’s the holidays, so we’re all clearly going to be a little more relaxed, and that’s giving scammers something to take advantage of, as we see one more scam type pop up a little more aggressively now than it did throughout the year: the wangiri scam.

For folks playing along at home who may not be up with the lingo, a wangiri scam is also known as a call-back scam, in that you’ll get a call from a number you don’t know that lasts one or two rings, with the encouragement that you call it back.

How a Wangiri scam aims to trick you

Wangiri scams work by calling once and hanging up, and they typically work because we’re trained to think that sort of calling pattern comes from an emergency.

The phone numbers used in a Wangiri call back scam are all from locations you probably won’t know off the top of your head, and that can make them feel like the emergency is legitimate. Perhaps the call is from a friend or relative on holiday in a far off place, that’s the general vibe the scammer is going for.

Call it back and you’ll be held on the line for as long as possible for one good reason why: it’s how the scam works.

How Wangiri scammers make their money

The scam itself is based on making money, and sees you calling a country with a seriously high call rate, with the scammers intending to keep you on the line for as long as possible.

In the case of one Pickr received this year, 220 was the country code used which means Gambia, a country that Amaysim reports costs $2 per minute to call.

If we call back that random international caller hailing from Gambia, they will do whatever needed to keep us on the line, delaying and stalling to get as much money as possible over a more expensive cost of call.

How to beat a Wangiri scam: search the area code and don’t call back

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to prevent yourself from falling in the trap.

If a phone number from a seriously different international code calls your phone — the actual phone, not WhatsApp — do two things:

  1. Google the first two or three digits after the plus, and
  2. Ask yourself who would possibly call from there

In the Gambia call, we not only don’t know anyone in Gambia, but we don’t know anyone travelling through there, so a call from that location could only be a scam call intending to make money.

Searching up the international code could just save you from this type of scam, which is clearly going to make regular call backs in our life.

It’s also a good idea to be aware of a similar trick to the Wangiri call-back scam, whereby similar numbers to yours are called to pull you into a scam. You probably won’t be hit with an outrageous call cost, but there’s a likelihood a scammer is on the other end of the call.

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