BUNDABERG residents have been warned of a sophisticated African phone scam which could cost them dearly.
Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Steve Smith said people on the Sunshine Coast had started receiving calls two nights ago from a number based in Cameroon.
Two days ago, a Bundaberg woman received a short, missed call from Tunisia.
"It was really strange as it came out of the blue and the call didn't go for long enough to answer," she said.
"When I picked my phone up I saw where the call was from and ignored it."
The "call-back scam" involves an extremely short call at times of great inconvenience, giving little or no opportunity to answer the phone.
When the receiver of the missed call dials back, they start to be stung with international premium call rates as the scammers have set up a toll number.
Often originating in the countries with the highest toll rates, the fees are split between the scammers and the telephone company.
The scam has drained prepaid credit users, while postpaid mobile phone owners have seen their next phone bills skyrocket after being stung by one of the scammers.
The call-back scam circulated New Zealand in April this year, and was dubbed the "Wangiri scam".
Snr Sgt Smith said the person on the other end of the line often employed various tactics to keep the target on the line as long as possible.
He said they were often told they'd won large sums of money, that family members had died or been seriously injured, even exposed to sexual conversations, to try and keep the victim on the line as long as possible, in doing so maximising the cost of the call.
Police do not believe the scam has compromised personal details or phone numbers, but is being driven by an automated process generating phone numbers.
"It is expected that very large numbers of these scam calls could be made as a result," Snr Sgt Smith said.
He warned people not to call back the number if identified as from Cameroon, and similarly, don't call back other international numbers if they don't recognise the number.
He said another SMS scam was currently in operation, with text messages being sent offering chances to win Woolworths gift cards, often referring to the recipient by their name of nickname.
The recipient can then be tricked into downloading a Trojan horse, virus or malware through their phone or mobile device, if they open the link.
Snr Sgt Smith advised not to reply to messages from unknown callers and never to respond to anything immediately.
"Never click on links in emails or messages sent to you by unknown sources," he said.
Scams can be reported through the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and up-to-date scam advice is available via Scamwatch.
The warning comes after a scam earlier this year in which calls to home phones by hackers posing as telecommunications providers.
Launched in May, that scam had cost people up to $60,000 in one dodgy transaction which withdrew cash from their superannuation account.
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