I recently visited some elderly family friends and was shocked to hear that they receive scam calls to their landline on an almost daily basis. 

Sadly, their experience is backed up by industry data. According to ACCC Scamwatch, Australians have lost A$35.6 million to scam calls in 2020 so far, demonstrating the extent of the problem and its impact on Australian households. 

That impact, however, goes beyond financial losses - scam calls create unnecessary stress (and sometimes distress) for call recipients, even if they are ultimately able to identify the scam before suffering financial loss.

In this context, the new Reducing Scam Calls Code C661:2020 (Code) - registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 2 December 2020 - is a welcome development which encourages the use of new technologies by telcos to help monitor and prevent scamming activity.

Under the new Code, telcos must:

  • monitor their networks, looking for call characteristics that indicate a likelihood that scamming is happening;
  • share information about scam activity with other service providers and with regulators;
  • trace the origin of scam calls;
  • combat number ‘spoofing’ (where overseas calls are made to look as though they come from an Australian number); 
  • block numbers identified as being used for scams (including by cooperating with international operators); and
  • publish information to help their customers proactively manage and report scam calls.

Major Australian telcos have reported blocking over 30 million scam calls over the last 12 months in recent trial initiatives and the introduction of the Code is intended to reinforce these efforts and result in further identification and reduction of scam calls going forward.

Phone scams are a current ACMA compliance priority, and telcos will face penalties of up to A$250,000 for breaching ACMA directions to comply with the Code.