In a first for the Australian telecommunications industry, Optus has partnered with the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX) and banking members, including the major banks, and taken a major step forward in protecting customers from SMS scams with the introduction of ‘Call Stop’.
The initiative will help stop scammers in their tracks when they send out scam SMS to unsuspecting victims of an identified scam number.
Call Stop targets call back scams, where consumers receive an email or SMS claiming issues with their bank account (often that unauthorised payments were made with their account, or that someone else had accessed their account), and asks consumers to call back the bank on the number provided.
By calling the number, consumers reach a scammer impersonating their bank. Scammers then trick the victim into providing access to their account, or to transfer their money into an account controlled by the scammer.
Call Stop prevents Optus customers who call an identified scam number from reaching the fraudster and instead forwards the call to an automated message to warn customers of the scam.
Call Stop will divert the call to a voice message saying: “The number you have called has been reported as being used for scam activities. For more information, please visit optus.com.au/CallStop.”.
The call will then be blocked, preventing the customer from being scammed but providing a clear indication that the warning or threat received was indeed a fake scam message and no action is needed.
Optus has developed Call Stop in collaboration with the AFCX and major Australian banks to help reduce financial scams. In partnership with the financial sector, scam phone numbers that have been identified by banks and their customers are added to the list of scams identified through the Call Stop program.
Optus Vice President, Regulatory & Public Affairs, Andrew Sheridan, said, “We are always updating our technology and looking for new ways to fight off scams across the country.
“Call Stop is our latest weapon in this battle and protects customers when they have been tricked into ringing a scam number. The automated message very clearly exposes the scam, and the number is then blocked.”
Optus is vigilant in this space and has used a series of initiatives to block 320 million scam calls since December 2020 and almost 80 million SMS scam messages over the last year. Currently, Optus is blocking close to five million calls and 10 million SMS per month.
David Pegley, Managing Director, at ACFCX, said: “Call and Text scams are the cause of significant financial loss and emotional distress to many Australians. These types of scams are on the rise in 2023, and criminals are using more and more sophisticated methods to catch people out.
“Our collaboration with Optus, with the support of our banking members, uses innovative technology to better protect consumers being targeted by scammers. It’s hoped that initiatives like Call Stop will curb the acceleration of this scamming technique.”