Australian telcos have blocked over 55 million scam calls since December

Less than four months since the scam call blocking code was registered, millions of calls have been stopped in Australia.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Confused businesswoman annoyed by online problem looking at laptop
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Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said on Tuesday that Australian telcos have blocked over 55 million scam calls since the industry got a new scam call code in December.

Under the code, telcos need to block not only calls originating in their networks, but also those transiting the network. Carriers are required to look for characteristics of scam calls, share information with other telcos and regulators, block numbers being used for scams including those from overseas, and take measures to combat number spoofing.

"In 2020, Australians lost AU$48 million to scam calls," Fletcher said. "The Morrison government is serious about tackling scams and it is pleasing to see that more than 55 million scam calls have been blocked as a result of the Reducing Scam Calls Code."

When the code was introduced, ACMA said telcos had blocked over 30 million scam calls in the year prior.

Last month, Telstra said it was blocking approximately 6.5 million suspected scam calls a month, at times up to 500,000 a day, thanks to automating the former manual process that sat at around 1 million monthly scam calls.

The system that Telstra built in-house forms the third leg of its Cleaner Pipes program.

In May, the company kicked off with DNS filtering to fight against botnets, trojans, and other types of malware, and extended to blocking phishing text messages purporting to be from myGov or Centrelink before they hit the phones of customers.

"If you think you are receiving a scam call, our simple advice is: Hang up," Telstra CEO Andy Penn advised customers.

Elsewhere in the scam space, the ACCC said Australian businesses had reported losing more than AU$14 million due to payment redirection or business email compromise scams to Scamwatch, with losses in 2021 set to be five times higher.

In a business email compromise scam, the attacker will trick the victim into transferring funds into their account, sometimes by impersonating a legitimate customer or supplier, pretending to be the boss demanding an urgent transfer of funds, or just straight up sending fake invoices.

"Scammers tend to target new or junior employees, or even volunteers, as they are less likely to be familiar with their employer's finance processes or the types of requests to expect from their supervisors," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

"We recommend organisations ensure their staff are well trained in the company's payment processes and remain aware of payment redirection scams."

Rickard added that people should not rush and double-check that an email is legitimate.

"Whenever there is a request to change payment details, always check with the organisation using stored contact details, rather than those in the requesting communication," the deputy chair said.

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