Albanese Government acts to disrupt illegal text message scams

Almost half of all Australians have been scammed, deceived or exposed to a fake text message – just in the last year alone.

In 2022, Australians lost an estimated $3.1 billion dollars to scams. It’s an alarming rise that is having a devastating impact on people.

This is why the Albanese Government is delivering on its commitment to disrupt these illegal text message scams, by establishing a SMS sender ID Registry through the 2023-24 Budget.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will receive more than $10 million over four years to launch and maintain an Australian SMS sender ID Registry. The Registry will help prevent scammers from imitating key industry or government brand names – such as Linkt or myGov – in text message headers. 

This adds a new layer of protection for Australian consumers against scammers using these known brands to target and deceive.

This measure will complement rules registered by the ACMA in July 2022 for telecommunications companies that blocked more than 90 million scam texts between July and December 2022. Whilst there is no silver bullet, the Australian Government is committed to improving protections and stepping up the fight against illegal scams.

The SMS Sender ID Registry will have a phased introduction before an industry-wide model is in place - subject to rule making, industry readiness and security arrangements. 

More than 47 per cent of Australians have reported exposure to fake or deceiving text messages in the last year. The Registry is intended to assist telecommunications companies to make it more difficult for scammers to imitate trusted and established brand names through SMS. 

The Registry complements the Albanese Government’s investment to establish a National Anti-Scam Centre (NASC) within the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as an innovative, world-leading public-private sector partnership to disrupt and stop scammers in Australia. 

The NASC will leverage expertise and resourcing from whole-of-government, law enforcement, telecommunications providers, financial services, digital platforms and other intermediaries to deliver a cohesive strategy to prevent future impacts on the economic and social wellbeing of Australians.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed just last week that:

  1. Text messages were the leading contact method for scams in 2022 (33% of scam reports) surpassing phone calls (29%).
  2. Reports about scam texts to Scamwatch increased by 18.8% in 2022. There were 79,836 reports of scam texts. However, 30% of victims do not report scams – including text scams – to anyone, so the estimated loss of over $3.1 billion in 2022 is likely to be far higher.
  3. The most common category of scam reported to Scamwatch in 2022 was phishing (tricking victims into giving out personal information such as bank accounts, passwords, credit cards or super). There was a 469% increase in phishing financial losses in 2022. Most phishing scams were sent as text messages 

Today’s announcements represent the Albanese Government’s commitment to tackling illegal scams and keeping Australians safe.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:

“The Albanese Government is committed to doing what it can to disrupt illegal text message scams and better protect Australians.

“With more and more Australians reporting scam text messages, the Albanese Government is taking strong action by funding the regulator to establish a new SMS sender ID Registry to support telcos in stopping scammers from imitating trusted brands.

“We will all reap the practical benefits that will be delivered by the implementation of the SMS sender ID Registry.

“I look forward to working across government portfolios in our shared mission to combat scammers.”  

Quotes attributable to the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, the Hon Stephen Jones MP:

“Everyday, scammers are ripping money out the pockets of hard-working Australians. The Government is fighting back. With the establishment National Anti-Scams Centre and initiatives like SMS sender ID Registry, we are driving home a clear message; the Government is putting scammers on notice.

“We know text messages have topped phones calls as a scammers tool of choice. The registry will not only make it tougher for scammers to imitate trusted brands through SMS; it will be crucial in disrupting a key channel scammers use to target victims".

Example of how a SMS Scam Registry may operate:

  1. You receive regular legitimate text messages from Australia Post with ‘AusPost’ in the message header. This might be a notification to pick up a parcel.
  2. Scammers are currently able to copy or ‘spoof’ that AusPost message header and send you a message in that AusPost message thread. 
  3. This means that in your regular messages from AusPost, a scammer can insert a malicious text message with a scam link that looks otherwise perfectly legitimate inside a trusted brand message thread.
  4. The registry will allow AusPost to register their Sender ID with the registry and telcos will then be able to block incoming messages that are not legitimate trying to use that Sender ID.