The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) introduced new rules in late 2020 to ensure that telcos attempted to stop scam calls before they reached our phones. Now, less than two years later, the ACMA has confirmed that telcos have blocked 549 million scam calls.

Telcos are always telling us about new technologies they are introducing in an attempt to reduce the number of scam calls we receive and today’s release from the ACMA shows that the technologies are working. Although the ACMA launched their Combating Scams Action Plan back in 2019 they did not release enforceable rules requiring telcos to detect and block scam calls until late in 2020. The decrease in the number of scam calls reaching us has seen a 90% decrease in reported mobile fraud since the introduction of the new rules.

“Every scam call that doesn’t reach a consumer is a good outcome, and every initiative that helps disrupt scammers makes Australia a harder target and increases confidence in our telecommunications services,” Ms O’Loughlin, ACMA Chair, said. “Mention ‘scams’ to anyone and the depth of frustration quickly becomes evident. Recent ACMA research found most people are annoyed by scam calls, and 33 per cent feel anxious, distressed or vulnerable.”

At this stage the new rules cover scam calls only and the ACMA have called for the development of new rules to block SMS scams as well. At this stage some Telcos have their own SMS scam filters, including Telstra’s new scam filter. Industry-wide rules would require cooperation across all telcos and until someone mandates it, it is difficult to see it happening.

“Combating scams is a seriously challenging business, and while we are having some wins, set-and-forget industry efforts and regulatory obligations are not going to effectively address the problem,” Ms O’Loughlin said. “It is only by continued strong collaboration across government, the telco industry, the financial sector that we will keep succeeding.”

Considering the amount of scam calls I still get it is interesting to see just how many are blocked before reaching me. Imagine how worse it would be without these filters. Hopefully we will see industry-wide SMS rules in the not-to-distant future.