News National Telcos given more power to fight scammers

Telcos given more power to fight scammers

Telcos scammers
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has announced expanded powers for telecommunications companies. Photo: AAP
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Australia’s phone giants have been given expanded powers to target voice-call and text-message scammers as malicious practices continue to skyrocket.

Regulatory changes will give telcos extra data-monitoring powers and use artificial intelligence to identify fraudsters.

Australia’s second-biggest telco Optus welcomed the greater flexibility to target criminals, revealing it had blocked more than 100 million scam calls in the first six months of 2021.

“Scams are a scourge on our communities,” vice-president Andrew Sheridan told reporters on Monday.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said threat-blocking capabilities would be significantly boosted by the changes and allow his company to better perfect its algorithms.

“Once we know if it’s malicious, we can go to its source … and block that.”

Announcing the changes, federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews revealed:

  • More than 214 million scam calls have been blocked since December 2020.
  • More than $87 million has been lost by Australians to scams this year.
  • SMS and phone scam reports have doubled this year compared with 2020.

“The new regulations explicitly state that blocking malicious SMS messages is necessary for the operation and maintenance of telecommunications systems,” she said.

“This provides much greater assurances for our telecommunications industry to employ tools to block these malicious scam messages.”

Scammers had a range of methods, including encouraging potential victims to click on links that put malware onto a device, Ms Andrews said.