Wangiri phone scam: What you need to know

New Zealanders have been targeted in a 'Wangiri' phone scam over the past few days, where phone users miss calls that then cost big bucks to call back.

The phone numbers reported to Newshub have all started with 0088 or 0023. They seem to be originating from Chad, in Africa.

If you have a number like this calling you, then put your phone down, step back and read the Newshub guide on how to deal with scammers. 

What is a 'Wangiri' scam?

Keeping it simple, a Wangiri scam works like this:

When you make a call to a foreign country, you are using infrastructure owned by another country's mobile network. This is why you are charged international call rates, so your mobile provider can pay for the use of that foreign network to have your call connected.

When the Wangiri scam is in place, the scammer essentially pretends to be a mobile phone network in another country, so any mobile users making calls to a number based in that "country" will be charged a fee, usually a high one. 

This is why you'll be fine so long as you don't call back.

phone screen showing recent contacts
If you get a call from a weird overseas number, don't call it back (File)

What should you do if you get cold-called?

The first bit of advice is if you have a missed call from one of these numbers is DO NOT call the number back. If the call is coming in to your phone, let it go to voicemail and then delete any record.

In this particular operation, the scammers make their money by you calling them back and therefore the caller is charged a connection fee.

Put simply, don't call back and there is no problem.

Although your friends may have all received the same call, don't worry, the scammers have not accessed your phone directory. They will be using an automated system that tries every possible phone number combination. The fact it's happened to people you know proves just how widespread this spike in activity has been.

What can your telecommunications provider (telco) do for you?

CEO of Gorilla Technology Paul Spain told The AM Show it was difficult for telcos to do to a lot in these situations.

"That would maybe mean blocking all incoming and outgoing calls to a particular company," he said.

Vodafone said on Monday that it takes "the security of [its] network and customers extremely seriously", and it has security measures in place to protect its customers.  

"Vodafone is working with our interconnect partners internationally to get all incoming and outgoing calls to the Wangiri phone numbers blocked altogether," it said.

How to keep safe:

Once your number is targeted, it's difficult to do a lot except wait until the scammers move on. So here are some top tips from Vodafone on how to keep yourself safe in the future:

  • Set a password (not something easy to guess like 1234) on your phone, laptop, or tablet and keep them locked when not in use. Never share your passwords or PIN numbers and make sure they're not easy to guess. Set up a PIN for your voicemail, so only you can access it.
  • Be cautious with sharing personal information on social networking sites, like Facebook or chat rooms. If possible, remove your date of birth and address from your page. Ensure that you have adequate privacy settings for your Facebook profile.
  • Don't give anyone your personal details, unless you're very sure you know who they are. Just because someone says they're from your bank doesn't mean it's true.
  • Watch out for phishing: where you get sent links online which might take you to a fake website. Do not open attachments sent to you from strange numbers, they might contain a virus.
  • Buying online? Make sure the site address starts with HTTPS. This means the website is secure and your personal details and credit card details will be kept secure.
  • Lost or stolen device? Hop onto a PC and change all your passwords of the apps that have auto logins, for example Facebook, Email, Twitter. This will prevent the person who picks up your device from accessing these apps and potentially hacking into your personal details

Think you've been the victim of a scam or fraud?

Contact your bank and put a stop on your credit card, tell your local police, and change the passwords and PIN numbers on all your bank accounts. Get in touch with your telco provider immediately and let them know.

And don't be embarrassed! These people make their living by fooling intelligent people. Make sure you let the appropriate people know immediately, rather than suffering in silence.