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A solution to reduce scam calls across Australia

Cyber Security Consumer

Posted on September 16, 2019

5 min read

Getting suspicious calls on your mobile from faraway countries or long-lost relations is nothing new – everyone is aware of phone scams. We believe there’s more that our industry can do to reduce the number of scam calls in Australia, and we know that a fix is well overdue.

Scam calls are frustrating, particularly to those who may fall prey to one or more of the scams currently in circulation. What might just seem like an annoying phone call for you can turn into money for scammers, too – whether it is through convincing you to share personal information that can then be used for fraud, or by engineering a call to a premium number that charges high rates.

A technology and industry solution

There are some things that telcos can do to reduce the number of scam calls that reach our customers. We don’t let our customers in Australia use fake numbers, for example, which makes it very difficult for scammers to operate from Australia. We also block calls using numbers that are known to be used for scam calling.  As an example of how prevalent scam is – we block millions of scam calls from reaching our customers each month.

We are also working hard with other carriers, and liaising closely with the ACMA and the ACCC, to better identify the sources of scam calls that still get through and then take appropriate action to disrupt and prevent those sources from scamming in future.

However, we cannot fix this on our own. We need all telcos, big and small, to work together to help identify the source of scams to resolve this situation and make Australia safer for everyone.

We are calling on all telcos to help our industry stop scam calls reaching our customers and proposing ways we can work together to fight this issue. If we can get this fixed, we’ll be able to significantly reduce the more than $500m Australians are expected to lose to scam this year.

Education to assist our customers

Until we have reached a consensus and implemented a solution, our customers can take steps to protect themselves in the interim. Everyone should understand how scams work so that they can understand when to hang up and not to call back.

There are three main phone scams currently popular around the world.

Getting you to call them back: Here, the scammer will call your mobile phone, making it look like the call has come from another country. Often the phone rings once or twice and then hangs up. In this scenario, particularly prevalent at the moment, if you do call the number back you’ll be placed on hold or play a recording. What you don’t know is that you’re calling a premium number which costs you a lot of money – and the profits go directly to the scammers. 

Getting your details: These scams are simply about trying to get access to your personal details. Scammers might call and claim to be from a major company (like Telstra) or government department (like the ATO) seeking to provide you with information. Before they can do that, they’ll ask you to complete an identity verification process by providing your personal information. They’ll use this information to try and access your bank account or online services to steal your money.

Variations of this scam include calls saying your computer has a virus and asking you to provide access so they can remove it. The scammer will then download your personal data or implant a virus that will collect data they can use at a later date to access your money or identity.

Getting you to pay for services: These scams are about convincing you that you owe a company money and that you must pay immediately. Often, the scammer will claim to be from a major utility or telecommunication company – scammers know the chances are high that you’ll get a call relating to a company where you have some services. Callers often talk in an aggressive manner or with a sense of urgency, or they may threaten to cut off your services, so you panic and pay immediately.

We know that education is only part of the battle because it is often our most vulnerable customers who are preyed upon by scammers. That’s why, in addition to operating our misuse of service and cyber scam reporting services, we’re calling on all of Australia’s telecommunications industry and its partner organisations to work together to find an effective technology solution to scam calls.

The opportunity for all telcos here is to set the bar high for what we do with our customers to make sure we never miss a heartbeat and no customer ever gets left behind.