'Wangiri' scammers flood Kiwis with overnight phone calls

  • 22/04/2017

Just weeks after Kiwis reported receiving scam calls from Chad (the country), it's happening again - but this time, the calls are coming from Zambia and Poland as well.

"Phone rang, screen said it was from Poland. I don't know anyone from Poland so I rejected the call," Dave Moulden of Rotorua wrote on Twitter.

"Got a phone call from Poland in the middle of the night. So bizarre!" wrote @sataylish.

"My missed call overnight was from Poland," added @treskewl1

"Chad just called me too. Man, f**k Chad," wrote @kittengloves.

"I missed two calls from Zambia yesterday evening… I can't make Zambia into a good joke, at all," added Aucklander @sararoseflips.

The Polish calls appear to have been the most common - you can tell because they all start with the country code 0048.

The calls are type of scam known as 'Wangiri' - when victims call the numbers back, they are charged big bucks, all of it going to the scammer.

"The best advice we have for customers is to ignore any calls that you wouldn't otherwise be expecting from unfamiliar country codes," Vodafone said earlier this month, after a number of its customers received mystery calls from Chad.

"Let them go to voicemail. Do not call the number back."

So how does it work?

In order for mobile phone networks across different countries to communicate with each other, there is a system set up that processes the connections and also makes sure that any international charges are passed on to the person making the call, from the country the call was made to.

For example, if it costs you $2 to call a mobile in South Africa, this system makes sure the right amount of charges are billed to you for that international connection time.

What's happened in this case is the fraudsters have compromised that system.

The fraudsters rely on you calling back that number - if you do, they pocket the cost per minute of that call.

'Wangiri' is a Japanese word meaning "one ring and cut". The scam originated in Japan.

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 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.