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Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Criminals set Telstra customers up with discount scams

Whether you’re a Telstra customer or not, expect to be called by scammers purporting at least 40 percent off your mobile. It’s not a discount; it’s a scam.

Trust scammers to come up with another way to fleece you out of your money.

If it’s not bad enough that the NBN is calling you (it’s not because the NBN is a wholesaler), or even a bank you may not use, now you have to contend with Telstra calling you to offer a discount.

Not so much a freebie, but a discount. Wooooo.

Clearly, it’s not Telstra calling, but don’t let that stop scammers, because some have cottoned onto the fact that the idea of something for free is clearly a scam, so why not dangle the idea of a big discount on a telco you may not actually use.

That’s exactly what has been happening for the past few months, as scammers make calls claiming to be from Australia’s biggest telco that you (yes, you) could get a huge discount on your mobile bill. Because 40 percent is nearly halfway, so that would be pretty big, and it’s more believable than free.

Just how legitimate is this whole thing?

Be realistic

“Not very” is the first answer, but in the heat of a moment, the feeling that you’re going to save money is a big feeling. And scammers play on big feelings.

While the idea of free is often unbelievable, the idea of saving money can be much more sound, which is likely why scammers are trying it.

Ultimately, you need to be realistic about the chance of a large organisation calling you up and giving you a staggering discount. It’s very much like the idea that you have just won something randomly, such as winning a random gift card from JB HiFi, another of the many scams out there.

These sorts of scams are commonplace, and they already cause us to raise an eyebrow or two. It’s this sort of instinct that you might want to trust, according to Telstra’s Darren Pauli.

“If that kicks into gear that and your brow furrows, and you ‘think that’s a bit odd,’ that’s your first warning and your best warning,” he told Pickr. He also noted that actual deals would come through the MyTelstra app, rather than some random person calling you up.

Alternatively, if you’re not sure whether the deal is legit, you can always hang up and call Telstra to ask.

Know the payoff

Ideally, scammers don’t want you to do that. They’ll stress urgency because that’s a hallmark of a typical scam, but they may also try to claim they’re the real deal repeatedly, because keeping you connected and convinced is the point.

But knowing the payoff might just make you hang up even faster.

In the Telstra discount scam, a criminal on the other end of the phone call is essentially asking for your details either so they can charge you money, or so they can log into your account and intercept your emails and other details to eventually charge you money.

Depending on how deep the rabbit hole goes, gaining access to a Telstra account by a Telstra subscriber may give them the ability to port your number, which would make it easier to break into other services using multi-factor authentication.

Banks are a great example of where this can be problematic, because banking services often use phone numbers as that multi-factor login system.

How can you tell if a call is a scam?

Ultimately, working out what’s a scam isn’t always easy over the phone.

In SMS and emails, there are little telltale signs. Weird looking URLs and spelling errors are the common ones, but beyond getting details for things you actually use right (such as the telco or bank you use), it mightn’t be as easy to work it out over the phone.

However, one sign is almost always urgency.

“The traditional hallmark is urgency,” said Pauli, telling Pickr that the urgency indicator is “very, very, very common, almost exclusively”.

“All these rules that tap into our psychology that make us buy stuff. [They’re] the same things that salespeople would use. Everyone taps into these innate things, the automated part of our psychology,” he said.

“It’s a rush urgency and then some sort of an offer or threat: you’ve got to do this now or there will be consequences, [or] you’re gonna miss out an offer, [or] your account’s gonna get hacked, whatever, that’s very traditional.”

Scammers use these as a bit of a scare tactic: the urgency makes you want to act, but it’s this level of phrasing and wording that can get you caught more quickly.

If a caller asks you to work quickly, hang up and call the company for advice. And by “call the company”, we don’t mean to redial the number that just called you. No, instead search for the actual number online with a search.

Much like how scammers can’t just use an email address from the actual company, they also can’t use the phone number of the real company, either. They’re also unlikely to outrank the real company on search, so you can typically rest assured that the number you find on Google or any other engine is the right one, and not the one a scammer has just called you on.

“If something seems off, let yourself be on alert, and then just, either slow it down or press for more information,” said Pauli. “Don’t be tricked and swindled and smooth talked.”

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