Telstra touts new filter in push to block phone scammers

Telstra is rolling out a brand-new SMS scam filter as the country’s biggest telecommunications provider encounters a surge in malicious text messages on its network.

Apr 07, 2022, updated Apr 07, 2022
Telstra CEO Andrew Penn says the deal with Microsoft is "of a scale not seen before in Australia".(Photo: AAP Image/David Crosling)

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn says the deal with Microsoft is "of a scale not seen before in Australia".(Photo: AAP Image/David Crosling)

Scam text messages were not only annoying but also malicious and had the potential to steal people’s money or install malware to steal personal information, hack their internet banking and infect their contacts, Telstra said.

“We know the number of scam text messages on our network is on the rise: in 2021 we had more than 11,000 reports of malicious texts to Android devices compared to 50 reports in 2020,” chief executive Andy Penn said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last year noted that phones were the most common way for scammers to target victims and also the most successful in terms of financial loss.

ScamWatch estimated Australians last year lost $63.6 million from phone-based scams.

Telstra blocked more than 100 million scam calls in the past year as part of its Cleaner Pipes initiative.

The telecoms provider says its new SMS scam filter feature will help address the problem by blocking scam text messages at the network level before they even reach mobile devices.

The company has been testing the feature in an internal pilot program for the last three months, with about 2500 employees taking part.

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“We’ve been successful in detecting and blocking hundreds of scam SMS messages every day. Our people on the pilot program told us they saw a reduction in the number of scam SMS messages they received,” Penn said.

The technology has been fine-tuned and rolled out to every customer on Telstra’s network, including for other providers such as Belong that use the network.

Automatic machine scanning picks suspicious content such as malicious links and combines this with other patterns and characteristics such as the time, sender, the number of messages sent and the recipient.

Telstra said it had protections to ensure legitimate messages still got through, so it won’t block commercial messages from banks and other large businesses, government departments, emergency alerts and Telstra applications such as MessageBank.


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