Fresh SMS scam rules and telco penalties unveiled by Australian communication watchdog

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Australia’s telecommunications watchdog has registered new rules requiring telcos to identify, track, and block scam SMS attempts, days after warning consumers about a new tide of fake job offer scams being shared via text message.

On Tuesday, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) revealed the new suite of rules will also require telcos to publicly inform customers when a fresh fraud attempt has been discovered.

Telcos will also be required to share information they have gained on dodgy SMS numbers with other providers and report them to authorities, limiting the potential of scams to go unchecked under another telco.

Providers will be on the hook for fines of up to $250,000 if they do not comply by the new rules.

That figure pales in comparison to the total financial damage SMS scams cause to the broader community.

ACMA says SMS scams through 2022 have increased 188% compared to the same period in 2021, costing victims more than $6.5 million.

While cryptocurrency scams are en vogue, ACMA says SMS rip-offs have accounted for a sizable 32% of all scams reported so far this year.

In a statement, new Communications Minister Michelle Rowland says the new rules will strike out at scammers targeting at-risk Australians and their businesses.

“These new rules aim to disrupt scammers’ business models, which will help to protect vulnerable Australians against scammers accessing their bank account, social media, and online businesses,” she said.

The news arrives a matter of days after ACMA shared details of an SMS scam pretending to offer employment with major companies like Target and JB Hi-Fi.

Examples posted online by ACMA suggested ‘applicants’ could earn up to $200 per hour without experience.

“Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam!”, ACMA said.

Anyone who believes they’ve been targeted by a scam, via SMS or otherwise, has been urged to contact Scamwatch.

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