It’s been a rough few years for SMS users, with the number of scam SMS’ arriving on your mobile phone seeming to increase dramatically. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) agrees and has today announced new rules requiring Aussie Telcos to identify, trace and block SMS scams.

The ACMA has worked with the industry peak body Communications Alliance to develop a new industry code for telcos, the catchily titled ‘Reducing Scam Calls and Scam Short Messages’ code.

This latest step builds on the ‘Reducing Spam Calls’ industry code introduced in 2020 which focused on tackling scam calls. This code saw over half a billion spam calls to Australian numbers in just 16 months.

Under the new rules, telcos must publish information to assist their customers in proactively managing and reporting SMS scams, as well as share information about scam messages with other telcos and report identified scams to authorities.

Australian telcos have been working towards blocking SMS individually after legislation was introduced last year which allowed them to block scam SMS before they even reached your device. The new code will see information sharing, which may help reduce spam SMS further.

SMS Scams are worth a lot to scammers, with ACCC Scamwatch data showing SMS scams increased this year by 188% compared to the same period in 2021, with losses jumping from $2.3 million to $6.5 million.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the new rules are the latest step towards providing better protections for consumers against scams and making Australia a harder target for scammers.

SMS scams can be highly sophisticated and have devastating financial and emotional impacts for victims. In some circumstances, scammers can take a person’s life savings and cause profound ongoing distress. These scam messages are deeply frustrating to Australians because they are received on devices that are an essential part of our social and economic lives. Almost every Australian adult and business is affected. We shouldn’t have to screen messages and adopt workaround behaviours to be able to feel safe and stay connected.

The new code is a priority for the ACMA, with telcos looking to face up to $250,000 penalties for breaching the directive to comply with the new code. So there’s definitely an incentive there.

I’ve been enjoying the additional Telstra scam protection on my account, but it’s good to see a more cooperative approach to stopping these scams – I’d say look out for more, but hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot less of these SMS on our phones.