News National ‘It’s an emergency. I need your help’: Bogus text messages spark alarm

‘It’s an emergency. I need your help’: Bogus text messages spark alarm

emergency text scam
Authorities say the distressing texts are an emerging issue, although no one has yet reported losing money. Photo: Getty
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An alarming new SMS scam is doing the rounds in Australia, prompting warnings from police to mobile phone users.

The ACCC’s Scamwatch says it has multiple reports of people receiving receiving bogus text messages from unknown numbers asking for urgent emergency assistance.

The message is usually something like: “Please call me back right away. It is an emergency. I need your help!”

Scamwatch says those who return the call report a verbally abusive recording on the other end of the line.

police emergency scam text
An example of the suspicious messages. Photo: Facebook/Richmond Police District

Police in the NSW Northern Rivers first reported the messages about a month ago, following a complaint from a Ballina resident.

“A recorded message played that contained multiple voices saying ‘hello’ and ‘are you OK?’ and then it goes into swearing and goes for well over five minutes,” Richmond Police District said in a Facebook post.

“It would appear the recording is of reactions to the message when no one answers. A staff member at Lismore Police Station also received this message last week.”

Victoria Police also issued a warning about the text messages on Monday. It urged anyone who received one to report it to Scamwatch.

A Richmond district police officer said it was likely the messages were a prank or a way of harvesting mobile phone numbers.

“I cannot see any record of this happening before, and as no money is involved it does not seem like a scam,” the post said.

Official police advice is not to reply to the text, and to block the caller.

Scamwatch said the message was a “new and emerging issue”, although no one had yet reported losing money through one. But some people might find the content of the recording distressing, it said.

It also advises phone users be cautious about responding to the messages – or that they ignore them.

More information: Scamwatch