SMS ID register to crack down on text-based scams

Scammers will have a harder time impersonating Australian businesses through text messages following a government crackdown.

Laws introduced to federal parliament on Wednesday will set up an SMS sender ID register, which will aim to better protect Australians from text message scams.

Companies that send texts out to customers with their business names as their ID would be able to lodge details so telcos can detect scammers looking to impersonate organisations like banks or the tax office.

Numbers looking to impersonate companies would then be blocked, or be sent with a warning

The register will be overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which has been running a trial of the scheme since December.

Texts are the most frequently reported contact methods for scams, with $27 million being reported as lost to Scamwatch in 2023.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the register would look to disrupt the business model for scammers using texts.

“This register is designed to decrease the frequency and impact of SMS impersonation scams on consumers,” she told parliament.

“While losses have decreased and progress is being made, Australians are still losing too much. There is no silver bullet to eliminate scam activity.”

While the laws setting up the register have been put to parliament, work is still under way to determine whether the register would be voluntary or mandatory for businesses.

During 2023, there was a 37 per cent rise in the amount of scams delivered by text compared to the year before.

Financial Services Minister Stephen Jones said the register would make it more difficult for scammers to target victims through text.

“Scammers are heartless criminals and our government is determined to make it tougher for them to operate and target victims in Australia,” he said.

“Our scam crackdown has seen scam losses fall for the first time since 2016 and the SMS register is another important step in keeping people’s money safe.”


Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)


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