Australia is Getting New Rules Requiring Telcos to Block SMS Scams

Australia is Getting New Rules Requiring Telcos to Block SMS Scams

Sick of those pesky SMS scams? So are we. And so is the ACMA.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has today registered new rules to require telcos to identify, trace and block SMS scams.

The ACMA said it worked closely with industry peak body Communications Alliance to develop rules around tackling spam and scam calls and SMS messages. They said it was in response to evidence that SMS scams are increasing in prevalence and impact. Ya, they’re very annoying.

Rules were already somewhat in place as part of the 2020 industry code (the Reducing Scam Calls code), but that was more for phone call spam, not SMS. And now, 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.

The ACMA said that in the 16 months following the Reducing Scam Calls code, telcos reported blocking over 549 million scam calls to Australian phone numbers. It said here has also been a dramatic drop in scam call complaints.

“SMS scams can be highly sophisticated and have devastating financial and emotional impacts for victims. In some circumstances, scammers can take a person’s life savings and cause profound ongoing distress,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“We shouldn’t have to screen messages and adopt workaround behaviours to be able to feel safe and stay connected.”

Telcos operating in Australia will face penalties of up to $250,000 for breaching ACMA directions to comply with the new SMS scam code.

Earlier this month, Telstra announced it had successfully outsmarted 185 million scam text messages, stopping them from reaching the phones of its customers. But, that tech is only available for Telstra customers. The rest of us have had to play whack-a-mole ourselves.

“We expect to see SMS scams reduce as industry step up to do more to protect their customers,” O’Loughlin added.

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

In 2021, over $1.8 billion was lost by Aussies to scams. There were a total of 286,622 reports made to the ACCC’s Scamwatch during this time. Most scams are being conducted via phone, then by text message. Giving us all another reason to simply not answer a call and another reason for the ACMA to push forward with these new SMS scam rules.

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