New rules on phone scams to reduce psychological harm

Taking a tougher line on scammers could save customers millions of dollars – and also safeguard their mental health.

Dec 08, 2020, updated Dec 08, 2020
Australians lost a record $3 billion to scammers over the past 12 months. (Unsplash, Jim Reardan)

Australians lost a record $3 billion to scammers over the past 12 months. (Unsplash, Jim Reardan)

The Australian Communications and Media Authority last week registered new rules requiring telcos to detect, trace and block scam calls.

Even in trialling the new measures, major telcos reported blocking more than 30 million scam calls in just 12 months.

The Federal Government’s regulatory impact statement for the measures, which also considered doing nothing or launching another education campaign, revealed the crackdown could see a 70 per cent decrease in “instances of psychological harm caused by identity theft from scam calls, and the need for consumers to seek support services”.

It would also prevent about $18 million in annual losses to scam calls, with 2500 fewer calls each year. The cost to industry would be around $2 million a year.

The chair of ACMA’s Scam Telecommunications Action Taskforce, Fiona Cameron, said the measures would make Australia a “hard target” for scammers.

“There is no silver bullet to reduce scams, but these new rules place clear obligations on industry to do more to protect their customers and build confidence that it’s safe to answer a ringing phone,” Cameron said.

According to Scamwatch data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, more than $35 million has already been lost to scam calls in 2020.

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