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Crackdown over scam text messages: ‘Enough is enough’

The government is cracking down on scammers, as Aussies lose $4 billion each year to fraudsters.

Scam crack down
Aussies had 90 million scam texts blocked in the past seven months. Now, the government is cracking down. (Source: ATO/Getty)

Sick of receiving scam text messages? Whether it’s a message claiming to offer an ATO ‘refund’ or one chasing you for an unpaid toll, you could soon receive fewer of them.

It’s thanks to a new text message registry proposed by the government. This registry would act as a “blocking list” for scammers and stop them from impersonating government agencies and trusted brands.

The federal government has asked the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to investigate the proposal, which has been successful in stopping scammers in other countries.

These types of scams are known as “sender ID scams” and they trick people into thinking they are receiving legitimate messages from businesses or the government, such as the ATO, myGov, Australia Post, Linkt or your bank.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said Aussies were losing about $4 billion each year to scams.

"Enough is enough. Everyone needs to take this seriously, from banks, to telcos, to social media platforms," Jones told AAP.

90 million scam texts blocked

Aussie telcos have blocked a staggering 90 million scam texts since mid-2022, when new anti-SMS scam rules came into effect.

Last week, telco Modica became the first company to be pinged for breaching the new rules. ACMA found it allowed customers to send text messages using sender IDs, without properly checking they weren’t being used for scams.

"This is a widely used trick by scammers to gain consumer trust,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.

Text messages are the most popular form of attack for scammers, with Aussies reporting more than 79,000 scam text messages in 2022. Aussies lost more than $28.5 million to text message scams last year.

Aussies are also losing more to scams in general. In 2020, Scamwatch data found there were around 216,000 scam reports made and more than $175 million lost. But, last year, that number increased to around 239,000 and losses more than tripled - to more than $568 million.

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