Will the new action plan by AMCA curb phone scams?

  • The plan was developed as a result of industry and government coming together to share information.
  • In one case, a telco provider blocked nearly 3 million scam calls in one month.

The much-awaited action plan from the Australian government to crack down on phone scams—exposing personal and financial information to the hackers—is here.

A background into the story

The release of the action plan is part of the Scam Technology Project, which kicked off in December last year.

  • The project is designed to see the communications watchdog work with telco companies to develop technology-based solutions to combat telco-related scams, including mobile number fraud.
  • In October, the government had introduced new telco regulations to prevent fraudsters from hijacking mobile numbers.
  • Under the rule, two-factor authentication was made mandatory for mobile transfer requests for all telcos. But, that wasn’t enough.

The new three-point action plan

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a new action plan report to fight rising phone scams in the territory.

  • Under the first action plan, the ACMA recommends an immediate constitution of a joint government-industry task force for strategic oversight and collaboration to minimize scams, and discuss and implement enforceable obligations for the telco sector to be established.
  • The second action plan includes developing enforceable obligations for telco providers to share scam call data across industry; verify, trace and block scam calls; prevent carriage of domestic originating calls where the caller does not hold the rights of use to the number; minimise carriage of international originating calls using illegitimate calling line identification; refer scam calls and/or perpetrators to authorities; implement and update SMS filtering technology; monitor broader technological development and international initiatives for potential implementation; provide advice and information to customers.
  • The third action plan discusses the immediate trials of industry-wide scam reduction initiatives, including; implement a trial ‘Do Not Originate’ list; identify and block ‘Wangiri’ call-back scam calls; block traffic from providers carrying a high-volume of scam calls using commercial interconnect arrangements.

Minister for Communications and Cyber Safety Paul Fletcher has cleared these actions officially put forward by the ACMA.

Comments

The plan was developed as a result of industry and government coming together to share information following the review of international best practices and actions, as per Fiona Cameron, Chair of the Scam Project.

"It is very pleasing to see our project has spurred on significant scam reduction activities across the sector. In one case a telco provider blocked nearly 3 million scam calls in one month," she said. "Scammers are agile and relentless, there is no silver bullet that will put a stop to all their activities, however a quick adoption of the Combating Scams Action Plan will ensure the sector remains vigilant."

The ACMA believes the use of technology—such as real-time call analytics—combined with call blocking can also significantly minimize carriage of illegitimate international traffic.

"Effective scam reduction at an industry-wide level can only be achieved through industry and regulators working together to develop improved processes and infrastructure that support appropriate sharing of scam data and referral for regulatory or law enforcement action," the ACMA wrote.

Project Deadline

The deadline given to the AMCA to ensure that all telcos meet the industry standard is given as April 2020.