New plan to protect phones from scams
All mobile phone numbers will be shielded against scammers under a federal government crackdown on illegal "porting", which each year costs thousands of victims $10,000-plus.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher will force small telecommunications companies to close a loophole that lets cyber-crooks steal the numbers of consumers contracted to any provider before seeking to clear out bank accounts.
The telcos will have to add an extra layer of protection to the process of porting, which is when a mobile service is moved from one provider to another.
This will stop scammers who have obtained a person's online banking login details from being able to steal money.
In an all too common rort, scammers port a target's mobile number into their control, which allows them to input the security code sent to phones when cash transfer requests are made.
Mr Fletcher said the additional safeguard had already been adopted by Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and others, but the "government expects all telcos to pull their weight".
Unless all players act, every mobile phone customer is exposed, because scammers can port to a provider that isn't doing the added check.
"There are still some smaller operators which are not yet implementing this extra layer of safety which creates an opportunity for criminals and a vulnerability for Australians," Mr Fletcher told The Telegraph.
He has directed the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to make new rules mandating stronger identity checks before numbers can be transferred.
"I want Australians to be confident that every telco has put in place strong verification processes to stop fraudulent mobile number porting and the devastating consequences it can have for victims," Mr Fletcher said.
His move signals the start of the government's Scam Technology Project, which will be led by the ACMA and involve experts from major telcos, with the goal of developing tech-based solutions to combat fraudsters.
"If criminals are using technology to scam Australians, we need to make sure we are using technology to fight back," Mr Fletcher said.
"Criminals will continue to look for new ways to rip off Australians using the telephone system. That is why tackling telecommunications scams is a priority."
One in three people whose number is unlawfully ported suffer a financial loss which averages $11,400.