The “Wangiri” international number call-back scam

A pretty tricky international scam has been making the rounds in Australia, and if you’re getting random calls from countries on your mobile, you’ll want to listen up.

If someone suddenly calls you and then drops the call, some of us are quick to return that phone call. It’s a nice thing and also something borne of curiosity, but a recent scam could be fleecing you out of money through that common courtesy.

It’s one that’s been making the rounds for a good year or so, though it’s enough to make us call it a bad year, because if you end up calling one of these numbers back, there’s a good chance you’re going to be out of some money.

That’s the intention with the “Wangiri” scam, which translates loosely in Japanese as “one and cut”, which then further translates to “calling once and then hanging up”.

The scam plays out exactly like that, with a random international number calling your phone once before hanging up.

Anyone who calls back will be sent through a premium number system able to charge more than a usual international call, and then held on the line. It’s kind of like a premium phone call, except instead of getting a service, you might be put on hold or forced to listen to music, keeping you on the line as long as possible. The point of the Wangiri call scam is to keep you on that line for as long as possible while you’re charged a premium cost for the phone call.

The numbers of this scam are very close, but both can be blocked, and if you see others like it, you can probably join the dots yourself.

That might be five dollars a minute or it might be fifty, but the goal of the scammer in the Wangiri scam is to get you to stay on the line for as long as possible at a premium rate you haven’t been told about.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), if you receive one of these unexpected miss calls from an international number you don’t recognise, you should ignore it, and if you receive several, block the number.

We’ve seen a few in the past week, with Luxembourg popping up on the Wangiri scams, though it could be from anywhere.

Wangiri scam FAQ

What does “Wangiri” mean?

In Japanese, “wangiri” means “one and cut”. In relation to scams, wangiri implies one phone call before cutting out. Which is to say, wangiri scammers will call your phone for one ring and then hang up. Wangiri scams typically originate from a random international number you won’t recognise, making it seem like someone from outside the country is urgently trying to reach you.

What to do if a random international number quickly calls and hangs up?

If a random international number quickly calls your phone and hangs up, it’s likely a scam. Do not return the phone call. Wangiri scams will not leave a message, and will wait for you to return the call, charging your phone with a premium phone number at the time.

Can the Wangiri scam take my money if I don’t answer the call?

Wangiri scams require you to call back to work. In these scams, criminals are preying on the curiosity and good will of regular people to return a phone call, charging a cost back to the line when they do so. For that reason, it is suggested that if a random international number calls, you should ignore it and not call back. If someone really wanted to talk to you, they’d leave a message or text.

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