New rules to detect, trace and block scam calls

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has today registered new rules that require telcos to detect, trace and block scam calls. The Reducing Scam Calls Code, developed by the telco industry, was a direct recommendation of the ACMA’s Combating Scams Action Plan.

The ACMA has worked closely with telcos and peak body Communications Alliance to develop the new rules and successfully pilot initiatives to reduce the scale and impact on Australians of scam calls. Major telcos report blocking over 30 million scam calls across the last 12 months as they undertook work to trial the identification and reduction of scam calls.

Chair of the ACMA’s Scam Telecommunications Action Taskforce Fiona Cameron said the code is a significant step toward providing better protections for consumers and making Australia a ‘hard target’ for scammers.

“The code is a unique and ground-breaking contribution to global regulatory efforts to prevent the harms caused by scammers. It is a holistic, end-to-end framework for effective scam reduction activity,” Ms Cameron said.

“There is no silver bullet to reduce scams, but these new rules place clear obligations on industry to do more to protect their customers and build confidence that it’s safe to answer a ringing phone.”

According to ACCC Scamwatch data, Australians have lost $35.6 million to scam calls in 2020 so far. Scam calls accounted for 46 per cent of all scams reported.

“Scams have a devastating impact on their victims and scammers are unscrupulous in taking advantage of people. They quickly adapt to changing circumstances, as we have seen, for example, in scam activity targeting Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Cameron said.

“Industry’s initial efforts to block scams are an encouraging step towards the substantial and sustained work required before consumers will see a real reduction in scam calls.

“The end game is to stop scammers in their tracks wherever possible and the ACMA will enforce this code to make sure telcos are meeting their obligations to their customers.”

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

The new rules build on recent scam reduction and awareness-raising activities by the ACMA, including the introduction of new measures to fight mobile number fraud earlier this year and the recent release of comprehensive consumer awareness resources.

“Reports of mobile porting fraud have markedly decreased since new rules were introduced in April this year, however we are still closely monitoring industry compliance with the new obligations,” Ms Cameron said.

Phone scams are a current ACMA compliance priority, and telcos will face penalties of up to $250,000 for breaching ACMA directions to comply with the code.

If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your bank and phone company immediately and report it to Scamwatch.

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