Labor wants new anti-scam centre and code of practice for fighting against scams

Australia's Labor Party has called out the federal government, saying it has been slow to implement measures for fighting against scams.

The Labor Party has vowed to set up a hub for monitoring and preventing scams if it is voted into Parliament at the next election to address the rising number of scams in Australia.

The hub, labelled as an anti-scam centre, would look to make existing regulators, law enforcement officers, banks, telcos, and social media platforms all work together under the same umbrella to address scams.

"AU$33 billion a year is being lost to criminals … We've got to do more. We've got to crack down on the illegal activity and we've got to do what we can to get the vectors of illegal activity, ensuring that they're doing their bit as well," Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said.

In a scam report published by Microsoft in July, the company said 68% of Australians encountered some form of tech support scam, which was nine percentage points higher than the global average. In another scam report, Australia and New Zealand Group said it has seen a 73% increase in scams being detected or reported by customers, compared to the same time last year.  

The Labor party also wants to create a new code of practice for fighting against scams and allocate AU$3 million over three years to community organisations that support those who have experienced ID theft, Jones said.

In proposing this plan, Jones said Australia has been slow to address scams, pointing to how similar hubs have been established in Canada and the UK.

"We should be treating [scams] like any other criminal activity. But we're not, because Scott Morrison is asleep on the job. Of course, we want to stop this, but we know that some of it will get through. So we've got to do our bit to ensure that we are supporting the victims of illegal scamming," he said.

The federal government has so far focused primarily on addressing scams through working with the telco sector. Last month, the government launched a new initiative with telcos to block scam text messages posing as legitimate government sender IDs, such as Centrelink, myGov, and the Australian Taxation Office.

Prior to that initiative, the federal government rolled out a Reducing Scam Calls Code, which is a telco sector-specific code for blocking spam. Since it was adopted in December, telcos have blocked over 214 million scam calls. By comparison, telcos had blocked 30 million scam calls in the year prior to the code's rollout.  

During Senate Estimates, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo also said his department was looking to provide telcos more powers to block spam and malicious content under the Telecommunications Act.

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