Over 200 million scam calls blocked

New figures from the communications regulator show 214 million scam calls have been blocked since rules were introduced by the Morrison Government in December, 2020, requiring telcos to detect, trace and block scam calls.

The Reducing Scam Calls Code is a key measure under the Morrison Government’s Combatting Scams Action Plan, announced in November 2019. The Code was developed by the telco industry and registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and sets out the processes for telcos to identify, trace and block scam calls.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the 214 million blocked calls are evidence that the Reducing Scam Calls Code is working.

“Scam calls are a serious problem. At best, scam calls are annoying. At worst, scam calls can have damaging financial consequences for victims,” Minister Fletcher said.

More than half of the scams reported to ScamWatch are phone scams. In 2021, so far, over 83,000 Australians have reported losing over $52 million to scam phone calls.

Three of the most common phone scams are:

  • Australian Tax Office scam: In this scam, Australians were receiving calls that appeared to come from a legitimate phone number used by the ATO – this is calling “overstamping” or “spoofing”. Telcos used software to identify calls using ATO numbers and block them.
  • Wangiri scam calls: ‘Wangiri’ is Japanese for “one ring and drop’” Victims receive a missed call, often from an international number. When they call back, the call is charged at a premium rate. The Reducing Scam Calls Code requires the telco industry to monitor, trace and block Wangiri call scams.
  • International scam calls: Evidence suggests that the majority of scam traffic originates from overseas. The Reducing Scam Calls Code requires the telco industry to monitor, trace and work with international carriers to block international call scams.

More than 159 million scam calls were stopped between March and June 2021. More than 75 million  of these were ‘spoofing’ scam calls, and 23 million were Wangiri scam calls.

For more information on current scams or to make a report, visit https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/

What to do to prevent scam calls:

It is important to protect your personal and financial details. Do not provide them to anyone who asks for that information unless you are completely certain about who is contacting you.

  1. Never give out your personal information or your bank details
  2. Double check contact details through an independent source, like a bill or through an online search
  3. Don't be tempted to click on links that have been sent to you out-of-the-blue
  4. Hang up and if needed, call the organisation back using a number on their website or in a public directory.
  5. Visit the Scamwatch website for further information about how to recognise, avoid and report scams. You can subscribe to the free Scamwatch Alert Service on the website.

You could also consider using an answering machine or other commercial call blocking device. These can be used to screen incoming calls to determine whether you wish to answer them or not, and many can block international callers or withheld numbers.

What to do if you have been contacted by a scammer:

  • If you've sent money or shared your banking or credit card details, contact your bank immediately. They may be able to stop or reverse a transaction, or lock your account.
  • If you have lost money or your identity has been stolen, contact the police.
  • If you've given your personal information to a scammer, visit IDCARE, Australia and New Zealand's not-for-profit national identity and cyber support service. IDCARE can work with you to develop a specific response plan to your situation and support you through the process.
  • You can report scams to Scamwatch online. The information received by Scamwatch is used by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to keep Australians informed about scams, to monitor scam trends and find innovative ways to disrupt scams.
  • You can also report scams and instances of fraud to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) online. The ACORN is a national policing initiative of the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, which allows the public to securely report instances of cybercrime online. Once a report has been submitted, the ACORN will assess whether the report should be referred to law enforcement agencies for consideration and possible investigation.