CBA, Telstra pair up to develop phone scam detection tech

scammers Telstra CBA Commonwealth Bank, Scam Indicator

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Telstra have announced a joint initiative designed to help the bank, in real time, detect and contact victims of phone scams.

The tool, known as Scam Indicator, uses artificial intelligence to detect, in real-time, whether a customer is on a potentially high-risk phone call that has the hallmarks of a scammer.

CBA, using a Telstra API, can then draw on this phone call data as part of its scam detection processes to warn customers of a potential scam or to “put in additional checks”, crucially in the lead-up to a customer making a transaction that may be headed to a scammer.

To protect customer privacy, the pair confirmed that, through the API, CBA can only access specific data points relating to scam prevention, and will not have “access to any other underlying customer data”.

The tool is currently at a proof-of-concept stage. and will be piloted over the next few months before an expected official launch later this year.

According to the pair, early results from simulations of Scam Indicator show that customers could save between $15-20 million from being lost to phone scams.

Backed by Telstra’s T25 innovation strategy, the technology is a spin-off from the telco’s Cleaner Pipes initiative, a comprehensive program to block smishing as well as scam phone and email activity.

According to Telstra, since its launch in April 2022, Cleaner Pipes has blocked nearly 230 million SMS messages, as well as an average of 10 million scam or potentially unwanted calls every month.

CBA chief executive Matt Comyn in a statement said the bank is “focused on helping customers stay safe by improving early detection and prevention of scams”.

“We have been working with Telstra to produce a machine-learning scams detection model, the first in a number of exciting initiatives from this partnership.

Comyn added: “We acknowledge that there is more to do given the rising volume and fast-changing nature of scams. We’re committed to playing our part to address this national priority alongside leading businesses, government, and the broader community”.

Telstra chief executive Vicki Brady said the development of the technology is a clear example of its efforts to clamp down on scammers, “working innovatively with CBA to put in place measures that will help stop this criminal activity in its tracks”.

“Australians are under constant threat by scammers, who are getting increasingly sophisticated and persistent.”

She added: “Cybersecurity and addressing the issue of scams is a team effort, and we should be doing all we can to help stem the flow of this criminal activity.

“Part of this needs to be organisations working together like this to share knowledge and insights and partnering to develop solutions that can help better protect our customers.”

Financial complaints ombudsman AFCA praised the joint Telstra/CBA initiative, calling for more cross-industry collaboration to tackle such scams.

“We are pleased to see telecommunications providers and financial firms working together to detect or prevent scams,” AFCA’s chief ombudsman and chief executive David Locke said.

“The widespread and sophisticated nature of scams means the industry needs to be willing to invest in new technology and have the ability to respond quickly.”

In 2021-22, AFCA received 4,131 complaints in relation to scams, an average of around 340 a month up 28 per cent on the previous year. In the current financial year, this has increased to an average of 400 scam-related complaints a month.

“At AFCA, we see the devastating impact scams have on people, so we welcome any steps firms can take to protect consumers. We urge all banks and telcos to contribute to this important work.”

Fellow big four bank NAB previously announced its own collaborative anti-scammer initiative with local telcos, placing identified spoof callers on a ‘Do Not Originate’ list in an effort to stem an influx of scammers targeting its customers.