The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman are continuing joint efforts to tackle scams relating to mobile phones, SMS and email.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has received complaints from consumers who had their mobile phone numbers transferred without their knowledge and then had large amounts of money transferred from their bank accounts.

"My investigating officers have recently received complaints where scammers have been able to transfer a consumer’s telephone services over to an alternate provider without the consumer’s knowledge.  We are then being told by consumers that they are finding large sums of money being debited from their bank accounts without their knowledge," Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Simon Cohen said.

"Some consumers have reported up to $38,000 fraudulently transferred from their accounts," Mr Cohen said.

Some internet banking systems send authentication messages to their account holder’s mobile. These messages contain a special code that has to be entered into the online banking webpage before they are allowed to make a transaction to a new party.

The scam operates in this way:

  • the scammers obtain the victim’s mobile number, personal details, internet banking username and password
  • with those details, they transfer the victim’s mobile number to a different provider
  • after taking control of that number, they log on to the victim’s internet banking and make fraudulent transactions, generally, transfers of large sums of money
  • these transactions are authorised by the scammer using the special authentication code they received via SMS message on the mobile phone they transferred fraudulently from the victim.

"The ACCC wants to send a strong message to scammers during National Consumer Fraud Week that we are working to Slam Scams!" Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce Chair and ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

The ACCC’s 2011 Targeting Scams activity report revealed that scammers continue to adapt to changes in technology to perpetrate their frauds. In recent years it has been popular for scams to be delivered by phone, online and by email. 

The ACCC advises consumers to keep their banking details private. If your mobile is unexpectedly disconnected, contact your telecommunications provider and your bank or financial institution immediately. If you believe that irregular transactions have taken place on your bank account, contact your bank immediately.

"Never give your personal, credit card, online banking or mobile phone details in response to an unsolicited email, telephone call or SMS," Dr Schaper said.