SMS scam-fighting rules come into force

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SMS scam-fighting rules come into force

Carriers to start blocking text spam.

The telecommunications industry’s long-awaited SMS spam code has been registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The industry regulator today announced the regulation, meaning the industry code proposed by the Communications Alliance is now enforceable.

The Reducing Scam Calls and Scam Short Messages Code requires telcos to identify, trace, and block SMS scams.

“SMS scams can be highly sophisticated and have devastating financial and emotional impacts for victims,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

“In some circumstances, scammers can take a person’s life savings and cause profound ongoing distress.

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

According to ACCC Scamwatch data, financial losses from SMS scams this year to date increased 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 percent of all reported scams to date this year.

The new code (pdf) includes rules put in place in 2020 to tackle scam calls, which the ACMA says resulted in 549 million scam calls being blocked.

It requires telcos to identify scam texts, by features such as a high volume of messages to a large number of consumers (B-Parties in the parlance of the code); malicious links; attempts to get the customer to place a call or send a return text to the scammer; or attempts to obtain personal information.

Mobile carriers and service providers should also share information about numbers that are originating scams, and the code includes a requirement to notify ACMA when scammers are identified.

Once a scam message is identified, the carrier should block the originating number in its network, either by disconnecting the sender’s service, or by blocking the IMEI at the network level.

Under the 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.

Combating SMS and identity theft phone scams is an ACMA compliance priority, and telcos will face penalties of up to $250,000 for breaching ACMA directions to comply with the new code.

Earlier this year, Telstra went public with its scam-blocking efforts.

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