The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has registered new rules to require telcos to identify, trace and block SMS scams.
The ACMA worked closely with industry peak body Communications Alliance to develop the Reducing Scam Calls and Scam Short Messages industry code in response to evidence that SMS scams are increasing in prevalence and impact.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the new rules are the latest step towards providing better protections for consumers against scams and making Australia a harder target for scammers.
“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,” Ms O’Loughlin 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. We shouldn’t have to screen messages and adopt workaround behaviours to be able to feel safe and stay connected,” she added.
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 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. The harder we make it for scammers, the less Australians are likely to be targeted.”
Ms O’Loughlin said 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.
“We expect to see SMS scams reduce as the industry steps up to do more to protect their customers,” she said.
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.
These new rules are the latest action in the ACMA’s fight against scammers. They complement ACMA-made rules that came into force on 30 June 2022 that require telcos to use multi-factor ID checks for customer transactions that are commonly targeted by scammers, including SIM swap requests and account changes.
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.
For information on how to spot – and stop – phone scams, visit acma.gov.au/scams.