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Wednesday, 27 November 2019 10:28

New crackdown targets scams over phone networks Featured

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A crackdown on scams perpetrated over phone networks is underway as the Australian Government works with the telecommunications industry regulator ACMA in an effort to combat the increasing scurge of scams.

The first of three pilot trials to be conducted across the telecommunications industry to combat common phone scams and techniques is already underway, with the action plan signed off by the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher.

The Combatting Scams: Action plan was released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on Wednesday.

The first trial involves telcos identifying and blocking calls which appear to come from a well-known Australian organisation but are actually made by scammers.

The second and third trials will start in the first quarter of 2020, and will target scam calls that try to entice Australians to call expensive premium numbers (by leaving a missed call on their mobile phone) and will also crack down on networks that carry a high volume of scam traffic.

Minister Fletcher said on Wednesday that in recent months there have been numerous reports of scammers using phone numbers of organisations such as the Australian Taxation Office and NBN Co.

“I want to thank the ACMA for this report and I look forward to working in partnership with industry to run these pilot trials as soon as possible,” Minister Fletcher said.

“For too long, scammers have been targeting Australians. At the very least, they have been creating a major inconvenience, by harassing us over the phone, email and internet. At worst, they have caused victims significant emotional and financial hardship.

“This is why the Morrison Government is committed to taking action. If criminals are using technology to scam Australians, we will use technology to fight back.”

Commenting on the scam report by the ACCC, the Labor Party's Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said: “The ACCC reports losses to scams will exceed a record $532 million by the end of 2019. This alone highlights the industrial scale laziness of this three-term Liberal Government when it comes to tackling telephone scams.”

“Australians expect strong and timely action to keep them safe – yet the rudimentary steps and trials outlined today could have been commenced years ago.

"What consumers needed was strong and timely action, yet this Government has dragged its heels for absolutely no reason. The elementary steps and trials outlined today could and should have been commenced years ago.

"Minister Fletcher’s foreshadowing of “expected benefits” in the next few months shows just how hopeless this Government has been. If it was possible to deliver benefits in a few months, why has it taken years?"

The ACMA leads the Scam Technology Project in collaboration with the ACCC, the Australian Cyber Security Centre and with experienced telecommunications industry experts, to investigate technical solutions to scams perpetrated over telecommunications networks.

The investigations follow a formal direction issued by Minister Fletcher in October to the ACMA to make new rules mandating stronger identity verification processes before mobile numbers can be transferred between providers, to combat fraudulent mobile number porting.

All telcos are required to have implemented the standard by the end of April 2020.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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