SecurityBrief Australia - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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ScamBuster Thursday: Telstra launches new tactic to combat SMS scams
Wed, 28th Feb 2024

Over a quarter of a million potential SMS and MMS scams have been reported by Australians to Telstra's national 'snitch on a scammer' hotline, 7226 (SCAM), as of May 2023. The majority of these scams reported are parcel or delivery related messages. A standout trend has been identified by the telecommunications company, with more scams reported on a Thursday than any other day of the week.

As a response to this unusual pattern, Telstra has decided to name February 29 as 'ScamBuster Thursday'. On this extra day in 2023's calendar, Australians are encouraged to go the extra mile in identifying dodgy texts, emails, and telephone calls. Telstra implores that upon discovering a scam, people report it immediately, to prevent further victims falling into the scammer's trap.

In 2023, scams caused financial loss to Australians amounting to more than $1.3 million per day as per Scamwatch data, demonstrating the urgent need for scams to be reported instantly. Each report aids in identifying new scams which can then be blocked by Telstra, thereby protecting others from similar deception.

Interestingly, in 2023, more scams were reported via text, surpassing both phone calls and emails. Despite this, Telstra's impressive record of blocking an average of over 11 million SMS scams each month through its 'Cleaner Pipes Program' highlights the company’s ongoing efforts to combat scamming. However, the company acknowledges that some scams still manage to bypass its rigorous screening processes.

Darren Pauli, Telstra’s Cyber Security Expert, stressed the importance of people reporting scams as it increases the chances of identifying and blocking them. He takes the opportunity to illustrate the importance of this additional day in the calendar, stating, "what better way to make use of a whole extra day in the calendar by helping prevent others from being scammed."

Pauli shared some crucial tips to effectively report a scam. For iPhone users, selecting 'Report Junk' or 'Report Spam' within the message is advised. Android users or any Telstra customer should forward the message to 7226 (SCAM) and then delete the message, being mindful to forward only legitimate scams and not screenshots. Marking messages as spam in emails to help filter scam emails is also recommended. Most important of all, Pauli stresses that one should not wait until Thursday to report scams; the sooner a scam is reported, the quicker it can be addressed.

In addition to this advice, consumers are also encouraged to report scams directly to the organisation involved, their telco, and if possible, ScamWatch. Telstra also boasts robust resources for identifying and combating scams including an active scams page which details trending scams and methods to avoid them.

Telstra states, the fight against scammers is a relentless one, requiring a collective effort from individuals and corporations alike. With the support of vigilant reporting mechanisms and the consistent efforts, it's hoped that the number of scams and the damage they cause will significantly decrease in the future.