Gone phishing: Over 336 million scam texts blocked ahead of impending Christmas scam wave

Dec 01, 2023
Telcos have clamped down on scam texts but the worst is still yet to come this year. Source: Getty Images

It’s no secret that Australia and the rest of the world is in the midst of a scam epidemic. Fake websites, social media bots, and AI have replaced a lot of the ‘classic’ email scams. However, the tried and true scam text is still the tool of choice for many scammers looking to steal personal information.

In a positive development for Australians, recent figures from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) reveal that local telcos have successfully thwarted more than 336.7 million scam texts since July 2022.

ACMA disclosed that these scam texts were identified and blocked by telcos between July 12, 2022, and September 30, 2023, in adherence to the ACMA-registered Reducing Scam Calls and Scam SMS Industry Code.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin was positive about the results of this action from telcos.

“These figures provide stark evidence of the scale of scam activity, with approximately 16 scam texts being blocked for every adult in the country,” O’Loughlin said.

“There is no single or easy solution to address scams, however, every scam stopped is a win for consumers and helps make Australia a harder target for these criminal syndicates. These are promising results to report during Scams Awareness Week as telcos build their capability to help stop the relentless attacks by scammers,” she continued.

Despite the promising figures, ACMA warns that the worst of scam activity may be yet to come. O’Loughlin advises Australians to stay vigilant for suspicious phone calls and SMS, especially during the upcoming Christmas period.

“The lead up to the end-of-year holidays is often used by scammers to step up their activities – including via fake parcel delivery messages,” she said.

“We encourage Australians to think about who’s really contacting them and to discuss how to identify scams with their friends, family and loved ones. It pays to slow down and think before acting on a call or message, and always research and independently check who you’re dealing with,” she continued.

In addition to telecommunications companies thwarting deceptive text messages, ACMA is actively spearheading initiatives to counter SMS scams. Ensuring the prevention of SMS scams stands out as a top priority for compliance, with vigilant monitoring of adherence to SMS anti-scam regulations to fortify defenses against scammer exploits.

Furthermore, ACMA is in the process of crafting a Sender ID Registry designed to safeguard the message headers, including those of renowned brands and government entities such MyGov, shielding them from fraudulent impersonation by scammers.

While it may not completely eradicate impersonation scams, this registry will effectively block scam messages from infiltrating authentic, pre-existing text message threads on smartphones.

When it comes to avoiding falling victim to scam activity, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) suggests the following:

  • Always make sure you know who you are dealing with or talking to. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you are not sure that an offer is genuine, do not go through with the purchase or share personal details.
  • Check if the company is registered through the ABN lookup website.
  • Read reviews of the business and check for signs that it could be a scam.
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card or bank transfer so that you can ask your bank for a chargeback.

The ACMA website has further information for people looking to protect themselves from phone scams. They advise that Australians should report any scams to the National Anti-Scam Centre’s Scamwatch.



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