‘Wangiri’ scammers continue to target mobile phones

Over the weekend, I received 8 phone calls from Austria.

The Friday before, I got 6 phone calls from eastern Europe within 10 minutes.

And a week earlier, my phone was running hot with calls from Ecuador and Papua New Guinea.


Every single call was a prank call; the phone rang for 1-2 seconds before hanging up.

I couldn’t understand the point – other than to be supremely annoying! – so I turned to Google for answers. A quick search revealed that it was an ongoing scam designed to get people to phone the number back.

“This is basically a mobile premium scam,” Delia Rickard from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) told the ABC.

“What happens is somebody calls you, lets the phone ring once and [then hangs up]. They do it multiple times and what they want you to do is call them back.”

If you do return the call, then you’ll generally either hear pre-recorded music, someone who speaks a different language, or “they’ll chat to you just to keep you on the phone as long as possible”, Delia says.

This is because the caller is pretending to be a mobile network, and your telco (such as Vodafone or Telsta) sends most of the money onto them from the call you make.

It’s as if you’ve called a $5/minute psychic, only when you call them back, you’re paying a premium to listen to on-hold music or jibberish conversation.

The ACCC fields thousands of complaints per year about these dodgy calls, which are known as Wangiri, a Japanese term that roughly translates into ‘one ring and cut’.

ACMA’s Do Not Call Register says the longer the scammers can keep you on the phone the more you are charged for the call. “They may even put you on hold, play music or read a horoscope”, it reports – or even lie and tell you that you’ve won a non-existent prize.

What a cheek. As if there aren’t enough bills to pay these days, we now have to worry about dodging the fake ones.

If you start receiving these calls, the ACCC suggests that you block the number immediately.