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Government tackles ATO scams with new telco rules

New rules that require telcos to detect, trace and block scam calls have now been registered, as such scams, including ATO impersonation scams, cost Australians $36 million in 2020 so far.

Business Jotham Lian 03 December 2020
— 1 minute read

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said the new rules will see telcos publish information to assist their customers to proactively manage and report scam calls, share information about scam calls with other telcos, and report identified scam calls to authorities.

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Telcos that fail to comply will face penalties of up to $250,000.

“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,” said ACMA’s Scam Telecommunications Action Taskforce chair, Fiona Cameron.

“The end game is to stop scammers in their tracks wherever possible and the ACMA will enforce this code to make sure telcos are meeting their obligations to their customers.”

The new initiative comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch found that Australians have lost $35.6 million to scam calls in 2020 so far, with scam calls accounting for 46 per cent of all scams reported.

Scam calls impersonating the ATO form a significant portion of all scams, with the ACMA teaming up with telcos earlier this year on a three-month trial to block spoofed calls that appear to originate from legitimate ATO phone numbers.

In 2019, the ATO received over 107,000 reports of such spoofed calls from the community.

Surge in scams

The ATO’s latest impersonation scam report also revealed that scams jumped to just under 18,000 reports in September, up from 5,800 reports in August.

A total of $644,474 was paid to scammers in the month alone, with gift card payments, bank transfers, and iTunes and Google Play payments featuring as the top payment methods.

Phone scams accounted for 96 per cent of all scams reported, while email and text message scams account for 2 per cent each.

Tax debt scams, as well as scams around the government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures including JobKeeper, continue to feature as fraudsters look to target vulnerable members of the community.

“Scams have a devastating impact on their victims and scammers are unscrupulous in taking advantage of people. They quickly adapt to changing circumstances, as we have seen, for example, in scam activity targeting Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Cameron said.

“Industry’s initial efforts to block scams are an encouraging step towards the substantial and sustained work required before consumers will see a real reduction in scam calls.”

ATO advice

The ATO has provided some helpful tips for taxpayers, noting that they will never:

  • Threaten them with immediate arrest, jail or deportation.
  • Request payment of a debt via iTunes, Google Play cards or other vouchers.
  • Insist they stay on the phone until a payment is made.
  • Prevent them from discussing their tax affairs with you.
Government tackles ATO scams with new telco rules
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Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.

Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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