Interview with Seven, Sunrise

MATT SHIRVINGTON, HOST: Well, the Federal Government has introduced new rules to stop Aussie's getting hit with text message scams. All telecommunication providers will now need to identify, trace and block SMS scams so they can work together to shut down the culprits at the source. Providers will also need to publish information that helps customers manage and report the scams. Dodgy texts and calls are becoming more prevalent and sophisticated. Last year, Australians lost more than $2 billion to scams. For more, I'm joined by Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. Thank you so much for joining us. Well, you're turning the heat up on the telcos to help keep Aussies safe, how are you planning, though, to enforce the new rules?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: This obligation applies through a new code which actually has the ability to be enforced by our regulator. And if compliance is not forthcoming by those telcos, they can face very serious fines, about a quarter of a million dollars. And those fines can be ongoing. But it is certainly in the interest of all consumers and the telco companies themselves to really get to the core of this problem and to identify, trace and block those scam texts and to cooperate right across the industry and with our law enforcement agencies to keep Australians safe.

SHIRVINGTON: Minister often what happens is you get a text when you're waiting for a text or delivery, et cetera, you need to pay a bill, something along those lines. Are we at risk of missing real messages that are mistaken for this spam that's coming through?

ROWLAND: The technology that we expect the carriers will put in place are quite sophisticated. A lot of them involve network algorithms and artificial intelligence, and they do have a number of features in common when they are scammed text, there are high volumes being sent from a particular number. There are URLs which look suspicious and attempt to elicit something from the recipient. So, these in themselves are not determinative, but they certainly form a pattern of the kinds of scams that are involved. But certainly, it is strongly recommended by a number of telcos and certainly within the code as it stands that if you don't know a number and you are concerned that it might be a scam, or you have been a victim before to not answer those calls. But certainly, I would urge all Australians to remain vigilant because a lot of these companies overseas and domestically driven, they prey on vulnerable people, and exactly as she said, this is costing billions of dollars for Australians who are attempting to go about their daily lives in an honest way. We want to make a real difference in this area.

SHIRVINGTON: Just quickly, in regards to the text messaging, there's been rules for scam calls already, but we're still getting them. How is this going to be effective?

ROWLAND: We've already seen about half a billion scam calls being blocked in just over twelve months since the code came into place that covered calls alone. So we know that the technology works. But exactly as you say, this isn't going to stop every scam text or every scam call. These are criminals who will keep going. But by having this obligation and the consistency across the industry, we should see things getting better. But of course, we need people to also remain vigilant at all times.

SHIRVINGTON: Yeah. Let's hope it works. Minister. Thank you. Here's Nat.

ROWLAND: Pleasure.