Are you on a Telstra or Optus mobile phone plan and received a scam SMS? There are some new protections coming your way | Sunrise

Telecommunications companies will be required to identify, trace and block SMS scams as part of new rules designed to protect customers.

A new code registered by the communications watchdog has been set up in response to the growing number of SMS scams.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland explains the new rules in the video player above

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Under the new rules developed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), telcos must also publish information to help their customers manage and report scams.

Companies will be required to share information about scams with their competitors and report identified scams to authorities.

The new rules were developed alongside industry peak body Communications Alliance.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the new rules would make it more difficult for people to fall victim to the scams.

“SMS scams can be highly sophisticated and have devastating financial and emotional impacts for victims,” she said.

“These scam messages are deeply frustrating to Australians because they are received on devices that are an essential part of our social and economic lives.

“Almost every Australian adult and business is affected.”

So far this year, more than $6.5 million has been lost to SMS scams, up 188 per cent compared to the same period the year before.

The SMS scams have made up about one-third of all reported scams in 2022.

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

“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.”

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Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the government welcomed the new rules.

“Most Australians have either received a scam text message or know someone who has, and know how easy it can be to fall into the trap,” she said.

“These new rules aim to disrupt scammers’ business models, which will help to protect vulnerable Australians against scammers accessing their bank account, social media and online businesses.”

Under the new code, telcos found to have breached the directions will be fined up to $250,000.

One of the most common examples of this is parcel delivery scams. Here a text is sent asking you to click on a link which turns out to be malicious software.

When it comes to the NBN, Scamwatch saw 6,458 reports across Australia last year, resulting in losses of over $1.4 million.

“Scammers will call you, they’ll pretend there’s a problem with your NBN, (and) if you don’t do something you’re going to be disconnected immediately,” explains Delia Rickard from the ACCC.

Preventing scams

Well, some big companies are already working to prevent these scams from affecting their customers.

Westpac recently started automatically blocking customer payments to overseas retailers that are deemed to be a high risk for scam activity and notifying customers by text message.

It’s then up to the customer to call the bank if they want to go ahead with the purchase.

Telstra has also introduced a scam filter after receiving 11,000 complaints from customers in 2021, totalling more than $60 million in losses.

“We’ve been doing a pilot inside Telstra over the past few months with 2,500 of our own staff to really fine-tune that filter,” says Narelle Devine from Telstra.

While these filters are helpful, they’re not foolproof – and we’re being warned to always be on the lookout for potential scams.

“That’s always going to be the biggest alarm bell, when they start to say, you not only need something urgently, but you also need to hand over your details,” says Quattromani.

What can you do?

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from scams.

See the ATO’s warning on tax scams in the video player below

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