15 September 2022

Tips for dealing with nuisance calls on your landline

How to deal with scam calls.

Those among us with landlines know how much of a hassle scam calls are. Not only are they a nuisance, but they also have a potentially devastating impact if a scammer gets hold of a recipient's financial information.

As younger generations embrace using cellphones as their primary source of contact, it’s our older population still using landlines who are the most impacted by scam calls (although cellphones do receive scam calls too, just not as many).

While you won’t be able to prevent scam calls completely, there are small steps you can take to give yourself an extra layer of protection.

"I've been totally inundated"

Consumer member Sue is so fed up with scam callers, she’s planning on ditching her landline just to be rid of them. At first, she received scam calls only occasionally, but they’ve been rapidly escalating over the past few years to the point where “I've been totally inundated”.

“Over the last many months I've had at least four or more per day,” Sue said. “I've been called at 3am and 4am and answered, thinking a crisis must be happening.”

The phone numbers mainly start with '0000'.

“I've learned to leave these to go to answerphone. They very occasionally leave a message, saying they are either Telecom; Amazon; or PayPal. Very occasionally it’s an ‘09’ number and I hang up before they say much.”

Sue has undertaken several steps in an attempt to avoid scam calls.

“I had to remove my cellphone number from my landline answerphone. Then I stopped leaving any message on my answerphone at all that identified who I was. Now, in spite of not answering any calls any more and having taken the above steps, they are still relentless!

“I feel my landline has become a total nuisance device that just causes me stress. I just wish to be left alone. I wish to feel safe and be able to trust incoming calls.”

Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive Karen Billings-Jensen told Consumer: “We know this problem gets bigger every year and that anybody can be a target. Unfortunately, more older people have landlines and are more likely to be home during the day when scammers call.

“We want older people to feel safe from scammers in their homes and online and we all have a part to play in making that happen. Check on your older loved ones, friends and neighbours and talk about how to spot a scam and where to go to seek information and support.”

In the first half of this year, CERT NZ responded to 163 reported incidents of phone scams and fraud. A huge number of scams remain unreported as recipients either don’t know how to report them or don’t think it’s worth it. CERT NZ works with other New Zealand organisations, including financial institutions, to combat scam calls.

‘Spoofing’ calls imitate banks

CERT NZ says attackers are constantly evolving techniques to catch people out. There’s been a spike in scam calls in which attackers pretend to be from a bank to trick recipients into sharing financial information. We've written about this before.

How to tell if you're targeted by a scammer

If you receive a phone call from a person claiming to be from your bank, telco provider or a charity, even if the phone number looks similar to the real phone number, there are some red flags that can help you identify if the call is legitimate.

With a bank scam call, the scammer will usually do one of the following:

  • Trigger a SMS code (a one-time five- or six-number code) that is sent to the recipient’s cellphone. This is a code to either gain access or authorise a transfer, but the attacker will say it is a ‘cancellation code’ or similar, and ask the recipient to read it out.

  • Ask the recipient to download remote-access software under the pretext of being able to walk them through a ‘necessary’ process.

  • Ask for the recipient’s bank account log-in information or full credit card number.

Other behaviour to watch out for:

  • Always be alert to blocked or unknown telephone numbers on your caller display before answering.

  • Unexpected contact from someone claiming to be from a trusted organisation, such as a bank, utility provider or charity.

A telco company would never call a customer out of the blue and request remote access to their device(s). It is only when a customer has requested assistance to troubleshoot a technical issue, that a provider will suggest remote access. So the request will always be initiated by the customer and additional security measures will be in place.

  • Urgency to make an immediate decision or payment while remaining on the call.

  • Requests for personal information over the phone.

  • Telling you that there is a problem with your computer and that they can help you fix it.

  • Telling you something that you think is too good to be true, such as winning a prize in a competition that you don’t remember entering.

TCF (NZ’s Telecommunications Forum) has information about the types of scam calls you may be subjected to here.

What to do if you think it’s a scam call

  • Never give out account information, credit card details or remote access to any device. Your bank will never ask for this information.

  • CERT NZ strongly recommends ending the call and hanging up if you have any concerns about the legitimacy of a call. If you suspect it’s a bank scam, CERT NZ suggests ending a call by saying something along these lines: “There’s someone at the door, I’ll call the bank back soon. Goodbye.”

  • Then find the bank’s phone number from the bank’s website or on the back of your bank card and call them. This way you'll find out if the original call was genuine.

  • If you believe you've handed your bank details to a scammer, contact your bank to alert them straight away. Fraudulent credit card transactions can sometimes be reversed. Report it to the police as well.

  • If the caller has told you they are from a particular company, ring the company (find their number elsewhere, don’t call back the number they called you from) and alert them to the call you have just received. They will let you know if it was a legitimate call.

Scams should be reported to Netsafe, regardless as to whether it was an internet, phone or other type of scam, and regardless of whether you were tricked by the scam. Report a scam to Netsafe here.

Also report any instances of suspected scam calls to your telco provider so it can investigate the matter and block the number if necessary.

Two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an easy way to protect your account with an extra layer of security. The first step is your login details, and the second step confirms that it’s really you. This extra security makes it harder for others to access your account or collect your personal information.

  • Enable 2FA on your bank account. This adds an extra security layer on top of your password, like a code sent to your phone. That way if an attacker gets your login details, they still won’t be able to access your account. Never share these codes with anyone. Your bank will never ask you for a 2FA code over the phone.

Banks all enable their 2FA systems differently. Some will have different options depending on if you’re logging into your account on your desktop, laptop or mobile device. Check your bank’s website or give them a call to see what their 2FA options are, and how to set it up.

If you don’t consider yourself particularly technologically savvy, ask a family member or friend if they can help you.

You can enable 2FA on most of your online accounts, such as:

  • email accounts;
  • social media networks;
  • internet banking;
  • online shopping sites.

You can also set 2FA up on your devices — on laptops, tablets, smartphones and even some game consoles. Like any security measure, 2FA isn’t bulletproof. Make sure you’re still using strong passwords and have robust security settings on your devices and accounts.

If you have clicked on a suspicious link or received a call in which you’ve provided a 2FA code, contact your bank immediately and report the incident to CERT NZ.

More information can be found at scamwatch.govt.nz, including a list of agencies which can help if you think you've been a victim of a scam.

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