New code will require telcos to block SMS scams

  • By Zilla Efrat

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will require telcos to identify, trace and block SMS scams through a code. And, those that don’t comply face penalties of up to $250,000,

In response to evidence that SMS scams are becoming more prevalent and having a greater impact,  ACMA has worked closely with industry peak body Communications Alliance to develop the Reducing Scam Calls and Scam Short Messages industry code.

Under the new rules, telcos must also publish information to assist their customers to proactively manage and report SMS scams, share information about scam messages with other telcos and report identified scams to authorities.

According to ACCC Scamwatch data, financial losses from SMS scams this year to date jumped by 188 per cent compared to the same period in 2021 – from around $2.3 million to over $6.5 million. SMS scams accounted for about 32 per cent of all reported scams to date this year.

“There is no silver bullet to stop scams, but we know enforceable laws can have a significant impact and every blocked scam is a win for consumers,” says ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

“The harder we make it for scammers, the less Australians are likely to be targeted.”

Heritage Bank CEO Peter Lock applauds the move.

“We see first-hand the financial impact scams can have on victims,” he says.

“As a customer-owned bank, we’re committed to doing everything we can to protect our members from scams, which are increasing in number and sophistication.

“We have 24/7 fraud monitoring protection in place, train our staff on how to act should something seem suspicious, and have a dedicated team in place to prevent fraudulent transactions and recover lost funds. Heritage also proactively tries to educate our members on the latest scams and how to avoid falling victim to the fraudsters.

“We welcome any assistance from the telecommunications industry in identifying, preventing and reporting to authorities scammers attempting to defraud others.”

Ms O’Loughlin says the action to target scam SMS will build on the success of the 2020 industry code that tackled scam calls.

“In the first 16 months after the Reducing Scam Calls code was put in place, telcos reported blocking over 549 million scam calls to Australian phone numbers, and we have seen a dramatic drop in scam call complaints.”