Interview with Natalie Barr, Sunrise

NATALIE BARR, HOST: The Government is promising to crack down harder on scammers after revealing over a billion scam calls have been blocked since the end of 2020. It follows last night's Seven News Spotlight exclusive investigation into a British crime cartel which was fleecing Aussies of more than $4 million a week.

SPEAKER: In an unprecedented worldwide investigation, Spotlight have infiltrated the English organised crime mob. Liam Bartlett goes inside the Malaysian headquarters.

LIAM BARTLETT, SPEAKER: This unit have been given authorisation. Shoot to kill.

BARR: Joining me now is Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. Good morning to you, Minister. The Spotlight investigation showed how Aussies are being targeted by these sophisticated boiler room scams. What are you doing to help shut those down?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: We've got measures in place right now, Nat, that are having a considerable difference. I can share with your viewers that we now have the latest results from the first quarter of this year in relation to blocking scam calls and texts. We've had about 200 million scam calls blocked and around 80 million scam texts blocked in the first quarter of this year. But again, as your investigation shows, that gives you a sense of the scale, sophistication and the international nature of these criminal cartels.

We've also had in the Budget $10 million set aside to establish an SMS ID Registry. This will enable us to again block those criminals who are spoofing legitimate SMS trains that people already have - for example, trusted brands like Australia Post or your bank - and to ensure that they are blocked before they actually reach the consumer. We know there is so much more to do and your investigation highlighted the scale of this issue and the fact that we've had around $3 billion in losses from innocent Australians just in the last year to scams. That number is actually probably higher because a lot of people are too embarrassed to actually report it.

BARR: Yeah, you're right. Millions and millions of dollars of hard-earned Aussie cash is going out the window every week. As you saw last night, victims are checking online, they're checking business registry numbers, they're doing everything they feel is right and they are losing their money. So, do we need to bring in international governments? What else can we do?

ROWLAND: We do have, Nat, a sophisticated sense of cross border information sharing at the moment. This is a real whole of government issue. We are working with the AFP. My colleague, the Assistant Treasurer, Minister Jones, announced the Anti-Scam Centre and we'll have more to say on that shortly. But we also need to ensure that the telcos are doing their bit. The industry has stepped up, but we know there is so much more to do. I do appeal to your viewers, Nat. Take the minute. Take the minute to go to the ACMA website: or You can see the latest scams that are going around and educate yourselves. Make sure that you speak to the vulnerable members of your community who might need that assistance as well. That's a minute that could actually save a lot of heartache.

BARR: Yeah. And as we saw last night, though, some of those victims even got scammed when they checked into that website. It is a minefield. A lot more to go, but we thank you for your time this morning, Minister.