Telstra’s new move to stop 500,000 scam calls daily

 

As many as 500,000 scams calls a day are being stopped from reaching Australian victims in a world-first technology trial revealed today.

The software, developed by Telstra, blocks the calls at a network level before the phone on the other end even rings, and could deliver a serious hit to scammers who stole more than $48.2 million from Australians last year.

The phone scams range from calls fake, prerecorded messages from the tax department or Chinese embassy to fraudulent claims about NBN disconnections, Microsoft tech support, and Amazon Prime membership renewals.

 

As many as 500,000 scams calls a day are being stopped from reaching Australian victims in a world-first technology trial revealed today. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
As many as 500,000 scams calls a day are being stopped from reaching Australian victims in a world-first technology trial revealed today. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

 

Telstra chief information security officer Narelle Devine said the company developed the scam-blocking technology as part of its Cleaner Pipes initiative, which has previously sought to filter SMS scams and block scam websites.

Ms Devine said scam calls had to be identified and blocked manually until software developed by four engineers automated the process.

"We're now blocking around 1.5 million suspected scam calls a week on average, or 6.5 million scam calls a month from reaching our customers," she said.

"On an active day for the scammers, we can see anything from up to half a million of those calls a day being blocked which is a huge leap for us."

Ms Devine said the technology had been in development since 2019 and Telstra had recently started testing the technology across more of its network.

The technology did not just block phone calls based on their location, she said, but looked for "behaviours" typical of scammers.

Phone calls became the biggest source of all scams in Australia last year, with more than 103,000 reported in 2020 and losses of more than $48.2 million, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's ScamWatch project.

In January alone, Australians lost $4.9 million to scam phone calls over 10,000 reported attempts.

 

Phone calls became the biggest source of all scams in Australia last year, with more than 103,000 reported in 2020 and losses of more than $48.2 million. Picture: Supplied
Phone calls became the biggest source of all scams in Australia last year, with more than 103,000 reported in 2020 and losses of more than $48.2 million. Picture: Supplied

Telstra's announcement comes just two months after the Australian Communications and Media Authority released a new industry code designed to reduce scam calls.

Under the rules, phone carriers must share information about scam calls with other telcos, report scams to authorities, and help educate their customers about scams and where to go for help.

ACMA Scam Telecommunications Action Taskforce chair Fiona Cameron said the phone scams had a "devastating impact on their victims" but had proven difficult to eliminate.

Ms Devine said Telstra would continue to refine its scam-blocking technology, but warned some scammers would still slip through the blocks and continue a "cat-and-mouse game" with authorities.

"It's not going to block everything because the adversary shifts, they move their tactics, but certainly it's a significant reduction of the scam calls that customers receive," she said.

Cybersecurity experts recommend those who receive scam calls hang up immediately and don't engage with the scammer or press a number to avoid confirming their phone number is active.

Originally published as Telstra's new move to stop 500,000 scam calls daily



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