Big four bank backs Govt’s SMS scam blocker

SMS scam blocker registry

Westpac has backed a Federal Government scheme to combat text message scams, with Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to host the new $10 million SMS sender ID Registry.

Once established, the Registry will enable legitimate businesses or government authorities to log their Sender ID. Telecommunications providers will then be able to determine and block impersonators (‘spoofers’) attempting to make use of this Sender ID.

Currently, scammers are able to imitate or ‘spoof’ text message headers from legitimate organisations – like banks, the Australian Taxation Office, or Australia Post – and send individuals messages within that organisation’s message thread.

These spoof messages, which appear within “perfectly legitimate… trusted brand message [threads]”, frequently include malicious links.

Chris Whittingham, Westpac’s GM for financial crime & fraud prevention, has backed the scheme, saying it will create “another brick in the wall of the nation’s defence against scams”.

More than 47 per cent of Australians have reported exposure to fake or deceiving text messages in the last year, with the ACCC’s Scamwatch recording an 18.8 per cent year-on-year increase in reports of scam text messages.

Text messages are now the leading contact method for scams (33 per cent of scam reports in 2022), surpassing phone calls (29 per cent).

Meanwhile, phishing-related financial losses jumped by a whopping 469 per cent last year. Most phishing scams are delivered to users as text messages.

“We know text messages have topped phone calls as a scammer’s tool of choice,” said Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones.

“The registry will not only make it tougher for scammers to imitate trusted brands through SMS; it will be crucial in disrupting a key channel scammers use to target victims”.

ACMA reports that telecommunications companies blocked more than 90 million scam texts between July and December 2022, as a result of new rules introduced by the communications authority.

The Government confirmed that the new Registry will have a phased introduction before an industry-wide model is in place.