Asking for your identification over the phone

Following is a letter to the editor in Adelaide Advertiser last week. This is very disturbing behaviour from Telstra. I would say the woman did everything right as far as handling unsolicited phone calls. Telstra should be called out for this if the story is correct.
Scam callers

TELSTRA is advising of the number of scam calls they have blocked and warn us to be wary (“Phone scammers are still winning”, The Advertiser, Tuesday). I recently received a call claiming to be Telstra.
But before giving any information they asked for my date of birth.
As we have been constantly warned I did not give it and the woman hung up, saying she would call again.
The next call was the same, claiming to be Telstra and asking for my date of birth.
Again I would not disclose that information as I wasn’t sure it was Telstra.
The next day my phone and internet were cut off.
A couple of weeks later a tradesman came to reconnect it and I was billed $240, which Telstra direct-debited from my credit-card account without my knowledge or permission.
So much for warning people to be careful.
I have had it with Telstra.
(name deleted), Victor Harbor


Those of us who stay an MCG away from Telstra have it easier because the Telstra scams are too obvious.

Since the writer was a Telstra customer they should not have had to, but could have asked for the agents in-call details or the reference number, and then rang Telstra on a published, known legitimate number.

There is a lot of the unwritten.

If Telstra summarily disconnected ‘the phone and internet’ was it a PSTN connection with ADSL?

When a phone and internet service are cut off it usually does not require a tech visit to re-enable it. It may have been that the writer had ignored switching to the NBN noting initial NBN connections most often require a tech visit.

I doubt a tech would have attended without the writers agreement in one or another form. If the $240 was an NBN connection or modem/steup fee, that is how it works and it should have been made clear. If it was something else, that too should have been made clear.

I understand the issue was Telstra’s refusal to discuss with the customer unless a date of birth (or other identification) was given in response to a cold call and that is the issue raised. It is a bad look on Telstra if, as it appears, the calling agent did not advise the writer on how to assure the bona fides of the call, for the writer to take any reconfirming action they chose to ‘complete the call’.


If a caller (doesn’t matter who they claim to be) asks for any personal details, one should assume it is a scam.

If one has a relationship with the alleged business, one should ask the caller for a reference number and hang up. One should then call back the business using known (from an account/bill, yellow pages, company website) and using the reference number, find out what the call was about. One should never use a phone number provided by a caller to call back.

It could be a scam…but more likely sounds like the residence being migrated to the NBN. The writer of the letter to the paper might have ignored notices sent about the pending cessation of the copper phone/ADSL service and the NBN/Telstra may have been contacting as a follow-up to inaction of the residents.

The $240 sounds like a standard connection and NBN modem charge. The charge would have been advised when the writer contacted Telstra about why the landline and internet didn’t work and what NBN package they wanted in the future.

The facts in the letter appear to be potentially muddled and may not be the full story of what happened.

Edit: @PhilT, great minds think alike.


Whenever I receive a phone call from a source not in my address list, I just ask the simple question, “what is the purpose of your call today”.
I suspect the answer would have been that as a Telstra customer, the caller was from Telstra advising that some action was needed and they needed to verify that they were talking to right person.
It is sad that scammers have made many wary, but sometimes calls are genuine.
You can always ask your own questions to verify the caller. Like if they are really Telstra, they should be able to tell you what the last bill was and when it was paid.


In these Orwellian times that would assuredly be declined under ‘privacy’ since the phone agent would be unsure of who they are talking to/picked up the phone.

A standoff?

That should get a response that suggests it is a scam, or genuine to go further.


A standoff? As @phb suggested, get a reference number and call the support number on your Telstra bill to find out what the issue is. They will of course ask details to verify that you are you.


Obviously meant as during the call.

customer: ‘I won’t give you my details since you might be a scammer.’
agent: ‘I won’t give you any account information since I don’t know who you are.’

Sage advice, published more than once.


It is a shame that it has come down to this and how technology has been abused for a criminal benefit. Gone are the days of trusting first and then distrusting with knowledge. The coin has flipped not for the better.


This happened with an electricity retailer. I called them back on a published number and provided my account number, and they could not find anyone in their organisation who had called me or what it was about. Very glad that I refused to provide information to whoever it was who called.


I have had these calls from Telstra and my bank requiring date of birth and full name. If you ask for details about the purpose of the call they refuse to answer because you will not identify your self. If you call them back you go through all the various steps before you can contact anyone


But if you do go through all that does it turn out that Telstra really did make such a call? The call you describe sounds very suspicious to me.


Any legitimate large business will have a Customer Relationship Management system that is used to provide and record details of contacts and attempted contacts.

Keys into that system would be customer ID, case ID, reference ID…et al.

If a call back to a business service centre could not locate why I was called, giving one or more of the above, then I would:
A, consider the call to be an attempted scam, or
B, a company I would rather not deal with, and take my business elsewhere.



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We had a similar experience recently with our bank when applying for a new credit card. The online application said my husband would receive an email yet he received a phone call from a person wanting to verify him by asking for his date of birth. My husband wouldn’t give it to her so she hung up abruptly. We contacted our bank which took some time as it was on a weekend, and it was confirmed that it was a legitimate call but as mentioned, we are told not to give away such details. These companies need to have a better system.


Training their staff to respect security conscious customers should be their priority. In your place I would be lodging a complaint (once the card account is settled down).


A survey was sent through a couple of weeks later about our experience and I made my thoughts very clear!


I have also been phoned by Telstra a couple of times, about 2-3 years ago. He wanted to see if I would like to investigate getting a new plan. He then asked for my date of birth “to make sure he was speaking to the right person”. After a bit of thought, I decided against it. I thought afterwards that I should have given a fake date of birth to check whether it had been a scam.


Not a bad idea. Someone legitimate asking for some details to verify will already know your DOB if that is part of your account details. If you give a wrong date, they will tell you that doesn’t match.


Perhaps if you said something to the effect of
“You have called me, and I don’t know who you are. What is your name and position, and please prove you are from (what ever the organisation is).” Then wait for the confused silence :slight_smile:


(Edit added)
Agree that the strategy would be effective.

Wouldn’t a well designed service obscure such details from most front end staff to limit misuse? My experiences with some suggest they can’t see such answers. They appear to need to enter details correctly to bring up the account, which prevents misuse by limiting access to the account details of immediate customers.

Telstra call centres, my ISP and my super provider all appear to use a similar strategy. I may be mistaken?
One requires an account or bill number against which to enter the authentication answers. The house address for the service is not searchable nor other personal details. Authentication of these is blind to the service providers staff.