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The international missed call that will drain your bank account

Close up portrait of bearded man talking on smart phone, focus on lips, no eyes, secret talk, criminal threating someone
Avoid the international number you can't afford to call back. (Source: Getty)

Australians are being warned against ringing back on a missed call from a suspicious international number that will see them instantly lose money.

Scamwatch and NSW Police alike are both advising Australians not to call back any missed calls in a scam that is dubbed the ‘Wangiri’ scam, a Japanese word that translates into ‘one ring and cut’.

“In these scams, a scammer will call you and let it ring once then hang up without leaving a message, so a missed call will appear on your phone from an international number,” Scamwatch warned in February.

Calling the number back might see you put on hold, music played to you, even a horoscope read to you, or you might get a scammer on the line trying to chat with you.

The goal of the scammer is to get you to stay on the line for as long as possible as your call-back is being charged at a premium rate.

“As the call operates like a 1900 number or mobile premium service, a large percentage of the call charge is passed on to the scammer by your service provider,” warned the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Do Not Call register.

Mobile premium service scams have cost Aussies $138,275 this year so far.

The calls could come from countries like Tunisia, Guinea, Slovenia or more.

In a tweet on Monday, Scamwatch said it was seeing an uptick of these scams.

“In this latest version the scammer sometimes says “Hello” before hanging up. Just don’t call back!”

NSW Police also issued a warning cautioning Aussies against the missed call.

“It could be a scam that'll cost you a small fortune,” it said in a Facebook post.

How to protect yourself

According to Scamwatch, here’s how to safeguard yourself against the Wangiri scam:

  • Don’t call back any international numbers you don’t recognise

  • Block the number of any repeated missed calls

  • On mobiles used by children, consider blocking international calls so they don’t accidentally ring an overseas number

  • Keep in mind that any unsolicited attempts at contacting you by a business could be a scam

  • Let your friends and family know

If you’ve received a large phone bill because you called one of these numbers back, get in touch with your telco to discuss your options, Scamwatch advised.

You can report a scam on Scamwatch’s website.

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