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ACMA Targeting SMS Scams, Fake Claims

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is targeting misinformation and text scams during the next financial year.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said its “compliance priorities” target practices causing considering financial and social harm to the Australian community.

“SMS scams have risen sharply over the last year, and we will soon be registering new rules for telcos requiring them to track and block those messages,” O’Loughlin said.

“Online misinformation is also a growing cause for concern, so we will continue to review digital platforms’ performance under the recently implemented industry code and advise government on their effectiveness.”

Online scams are big business.

Between January 1 and May 1, Australians lost over $205 million to scams.

This marks a massive 166 per cent increase compared to the same five-month period last year, according to Scamwatch, who warn the actual number is likely to be closer to the one billion mark, as only an estimated 13 per cent of victims report their losses.

Telstra brought in a new SMS scam filter in April, that blocks such messages at the network level.

Telstra starting working on this feature after reports of malicious texts to Android devices leaped from just 50 in 2020, to over 11,000 last year.

According to Scamwatch, dodgy investment scams are the biggest drain on Aussies, making up $158 million of the $205 million, and jumping by 314 per cent year-on-year. Of these, $113 million are crypto investments.

Imposter bond scams, where a scammer impersonate real financial companies or banks and claims to offer bonds or fixed term deposits, made up $10.9 million.

The main seven targets of the ACMA this year are:

  • Supporting Australians to self-exclude from online and phone gambling–with the establishment of national self-exclusion register.
  • Protecting telco customers experiencing financial hardship–especially making sure telcos comply with rules relating to the disconnection of services.
  • Enforcing SMS and email unsubscribe rules–concentrating on businesses that take no notice of customers unsubscribe request or make it hard for them to unsubscribe.
  • Combating SMS and identity theft phone scams–enforcing new rules on telcos to use stronger ID checks and establishing new rules to reduce SMS scams.
  • Tackling online supply of dodgy devices–including educating Australians about the risks of buying these devices online.
  • Improving quality captioning on TV–adjusting our monitoring approach to better determine whether TV broadcasters are consistently and reliably meeting their obligations.
  • Combating misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms–continuing to review platforms’ data and performance measures under industry’s self-regulatory code of practice.

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