Aussie watchdog forces major telcos to act on mobile scam

Duncan MurrayNCA NewsWire
Online content is increasingly being tailored to mobile devices. Photo: iStock
Camera IconOnline content is increasingly being tailored to mobile devices. Photo: iStock Credit: Supplied

Australia’s telecommunications watchdog will force companies to clamp down on a vicious scam that has already robbed mobile users of millions.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) revealed on Friday it would introduce new measures to prevent scams such as SIM-swaps.

Under the new rules, telcos will be required to perform stronger customer identity checks when undertaking “high-risk” transactions such as new sim requests, changes to accounts or disclosure of personal information.

An increasingly popular form of swindle, known as a SIM-swap, works by scammers requesting a new SIM card using the intended victim’s personal details.

They can then take control of their phone number, which can be used to access bank accounts.

In a nine-month period last year, SIM-swap and similar scams cost Australians a combined $4.68 million, with 510 reported incidents resulting in 163 cases of financial loss.

The largest single incident cost the victim $463,782.

“Scammers are forever finding new ways to steal personal details and rip people off,” ACMA’s Fiona Cameron said.

“SIM-swap fraud is particularly egregious as it leads to identity theft and significant financial losses.

“We expect these rules will go a long way to stamping out unauthorised transactions like SIM-swap fraud and improve safeguards for telco customers.”

From 30 June, telcos will require multi-factor identity authentication such as confirming personal information and responding with a one-time code, similar to how banking transactions operate.

Camera IconTelco companies will require additional proof of identity in order to perform “high-risk” transactions such as new sim requests. NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi Credit: News Corp Australia

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the extra steps would provide better protection for consumers.

“The use of multi-factor authentication process is an effective tool in addressing fraud, because scammers might manage to steal one proof of identity such as your PIN, but they still need to obtain and use the other proofs of identity to access your account,” Mr Fletcher said.

Companies found to be in breach of the rules could face enforcement action by ACMA including court proceedings.

ACMA advises anyone who suspects they have been the victim of phone number fraud to contact their provider and bank immediately.

Originally published as Aussie watchdog forces major telcos to act on mobile scam

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails