Scam Calls To Australian Phones Halved As Crypto SMS Scams Soar | Scams
Fraudulent phone calls have halved since this time last year, according to data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch shows, but other investment fraud – including on social media and SMS – soared over the same period.
The Fraudulent Calls Discount Code was introduced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) in December 2020. It has seen telecom operators block over 549 million fraudulent calls since its inception.
The code was developed by the Communications Alliance, the communications industry’s flagship body, in conjunction with major vendors and had been in the works for several years.
Communications Alliance chief executive James Stanton said: “The code has significantly improved communication and coordination of actions between operators to identify, track and block fraudulent calls.”
“The difficulty is that scammers are incredibly nimble. As soon as they see a blocked avenue, they know very well how to find a new one to exploit. So it’s a constant car chase to try to prevent this activity.
The code’s introduction coincided with a major spike in phone scams during the pandemic, underscoring the need for an industry-wide approach.
Stanton said most vendors had provisions in place to tackle scammers, but consolidating processes and creating legally binding liability provided more effective deterrence.
The code requires telecommunications providers to monitor their networks and identify patterns of fraudulent calls, then block them.
Significantly, it also requires participants to communicate the identified scam to other telecommunications companies and the regulator, so that the rest of the industry can be alerted.
Acma’s Fiona Cameron said the code had been effective but the adaptability of the crooks meant the fight was far from over.
“You will always find that the phone is the most used way for scammers to reach potential victims. And that’s largely because scammers choose very easy targets. And if you have a landline phone at home, if you are older and more at home and more available to pick up the phone, the scammers will come to you,” Cameron said.
“In 2020, when we were developing the code, we didn’t want to make the phone such an easy target.”
Data from the ACCC shows Australians lost over $205 million in the first four months of 2022, with the majority of losses stemming from “crypto investment scams” which grew by over 300%. These scams were mostly via text – a method that has seen a 54% increase in scams since last year.
ACCC Vice-Chair Delia Rickard said: “Australians should be wary of anyone asking them to invest or transfer money using cryptocurrency, especially if it involves someone you’ve only met online. Many consumers are unfamiliar with the intricacies of cryptocurrency and this can make them more vulnerable to scams.
A new code that will be implemented this year will try to tackle text messaging in the same way as the telephone code. The project has been finalized by the Communications Alliance and is currently being reviewed by Acma.
“The text code has now been registered with us and we will, over the next few weeks, be working to ensure that all safeguards that we believe are necessary are in the code,” Cameron said. She also confirmed that the new code had been delayed due to privacy concerns with telecom operators accessing text messages to scan them for scams.