We’ve turned on a brand-new SMS scam filter feature to better protect you from scam text messages by blocking them at the network level before they even reach your mobile device.

Scam text messages are not only annoying, they’re also malicious and have the potential to steal your money or install malware to steal personal information, hack your internet banking and infect your contacts. We know the number of scam text messages on our network is on the rise – in 2021 we had more than 11,000 reports of malicious texts to Android devices compared to 50 reports in 2020.

That’s why we’ve turned on a brand-new feature to find and block SMS scam messages with suspicious links as they travel across our network, to stop many of them before they reach your mobile device.

We know it’s working because our people have been on an internal pilot program for the last three months. Around two and a half thousand employees have taken part, and we’ve been successful in detecting and blocking hundreds of scam SMS messages every day. Our people on the pilot program told us they saw a reduction in the number of scam SMS messages they received.

Now we’ve fine-tuned this technology, we have rolled it out to every customer on Telstra’s network – so whether you’re on a consumer plan, a managed device through your company, or you’re signed up to another provider that uses the Telstra network like Belong – you’re now better protected from millions of scam text messages sent every day.

And the best thing is there’s nothing you need to do – it’s already switched on for you.

How the technology works

The capability under the bonnet is complex and evolving – it has to be to continue to help outsmart scammers – but in simple terms, we’re applying knowledge of what scam text messages look like to block them at the network level.

If a SMS message looks suspicious, we’ll block it before it reaches you. Automatic machine scanning picks out suspicious content such as malicious links and combines this with other patterns and characteristics like the time, sender, the number of messages sent and the recipient.

Telstra takes its privacy obligations seriously. We know there’s a fine balance between protecting our customers and ensuring their privacy. While the technology is learning, it might flag a potential suspicious message asking if it is a scam. To avoid blocking something legitimate, the new message format may be reviewed by our specialists to identify if the message is a scam, but the details of the recipients will remain masked.

There are also protections in place to ensure legitimate messages still get through, so we won’t block commercial messages from banks and other large businesses, government departments, Emergency Alerts and Telstra applications like MessageBank.

Another step forward in keeping networks safe

While we’re confident our SMS scam filter will block a significant amount of scam text messages, it isn’t fool-proof and criminals evolve and find new ways to scam us so we’ve all got to continue to be alert to suspicious messages – even the ones that might slip through. You can learn more about how to spot and protect yourself from scams at Scamwatch.

Now it’s on, Telstra’s SMS scam filter will block many of the millions of malicious text messages sent to our customers every day. Most customers will be seeing the benefit already. However, if you do not want any SMS messages sent to you being blocked, you can opt out by sending an SMS to 0438214682 with the words FILTER OFF. And if you change your mind you can turn it back on by sending a message to 0438214682 saying FILTER ON.

This is an exciting step in Telstra’s Cleaner Pipes initiative where we have already protected our customers by blocking over 100 million scam calls in the past year. We know you have probably all experienced a fake parcel delivery text message or badly punctuated message about a video or unexpected payment – now, with Telstra’s SMS scam filter switched on, you’ll be receiving fewer annoying and risky messages.

The good news is that there is no need for you to do anything, since we have turned it on across our network – and we won’t call you or send you an SMS or email asking you to click a link to access it.