Scammers create SMS competitions or trivia scams to trick you into paying extremely high call or text rates when replying to an unsolicited text message on your mobile or smart phone.

How this scam works

An unsolicited text message may invite you to enter a competition for a great prize—for example, a smart phone or tablet or gift vouchers for a well-known retailer. You will be required to send a text message back. You may also receive an email or encounter a pop-up window online asking you to enter your mobile number in order to claim a prize you’ve supposedly won. Sometimes these come in the guise of a ‘customer survey’ in which you are prompted to provide your mobile number.

Alternatively the message may invite you to take part in a trivia contest with a great prize on offer if you answer a certain number of questions correctly. The first lot of questions will be very easy – scammers do this intentionally to encourage you to keep playing. However, the last one or two questions that you need to answer to claim your ‘prize’ could be very difficult or impossible to answer correctly and may even require you to guess a random number.

The scammers make money by charging extremely high rates for the text messages you send, and any further messages they send to you. These charges will not be made clear to you, and could be as high as $4 for each message sent and/or received. You may also be automatically subscribed to ongoing charges. You will not discover these charges until you see your next itemised phone bill.

Warning signs

  • You receive a text message, which may look like an advertisement, offering you the chance to win a great prize by sending a return text to enter a competition.
  • A text message tells you that you could win a great prize by participating in a trivia competition over SMS. The first message may even contain a very easy question to tempt you.
  • The text message (or advertisement) does not contain all the terms and conditions, or an ‘opt out’ to stop receiving more messages.

Protect yourself

  • Do not respond to text messages or missed calls that come from numbers you don’t recognise.
  • Look out for SMS and MMS numbers that start with 19 or phone numbers beginning with 190. These are charged at a premium rate, even sometimes for receiving a message, and can be very expensive.
  • Contact your mobile phone service provider to ask about the number—they will know if it comes from a premium rate service. Ask your telephone company to put a bar on premium rate services (190 numbers) to and from your phone.
  • If you did not want to participate and you receive more messages, contact your mobile phone service provider and explain that the charges are being made without your permission.
  • Do not provide your mobile number to websites or in response to unsolicited emails claiming you can win a prize without very carefully checking the terms and conditions. If there are no terms and conditions or they seem to be hidden from plain view, don’t risk it.
  • Read all terms and conditions of any offer very carefully. Claims of ‘free’ or ‘very cheap’ offers often have hidden costs. Before you sign up to a subscription service check that there is an option to ‘unsubscribe’.

Have you been scammed?

If you think you have provided your account details or personal identification details to a scammer, contact your bank, financial institution, or other relevant agencies immediately.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, SMS or screenshot.

We also provide guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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