Australians lost a whopping $851m to scams in 2020, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest Targeting Scams report. It’s a record-breaking amount, as fraudsters capitalised on the pandemic and preyed on isolated and vulnerable people.

Phones appear to remain the most common way scammers were contacting people, according to Scamwatch data, with 48% of reported scams taking place over a call and 15% via text message.

There’s very little you can do as a consumer to stop scam phone calls in the first place. Some third-party software promises to identify and block suspicious calls but experts warn that, ironically, some of that software is itself a scam.

So how can you spot a phone scam? And what can you do to protect yourself?

What does a scam look like?

At some point you’ve probably answered the phone to an automated voice warning that you owe the Australian Tax Office a vague sum of money.

But scams have come a long way…

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