Govt warns telco resellers over new mobile number fraud measures

Govt warns telco resellers over new mobile number fraud measures

The first measure to come out of The Scam Technology Project

Credit: Dreamstime

The government has warned telco resellers that have yet to implement new regulatory measures aimed at combating mobile number fraud that they could become a "magnet for fraudsters" if they don't get on board with the regulation.

Australia's Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced on 16 October new telco regulations which mandate stronger industry-wide identity verification measures before mobile numbers can be transferred from one provider to another.

Big telecommunication companies such as Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have adopted two-factor authentication measures voluntarily, while the ACMA noted the majority of major resellers have also done so voluntarily.

“The Government expects all telcos to pull their weight. I want Australians to be confident that every telco has put in place strong verification processes to stop fraudulent mobile number porting and the devastating consequences it can have for victims,” Fletcher said.

“The entire industry needs to put in place a solution, otherwise those telcos without safeguards in place will be a magnet for fraudsters.”

A statement from Fletcher claimed that “telcos representing more than one million mobile services are yet to implement these consumer safeguards, putting all Australian mobile users at risk of fraudulent number porting.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said on 16 October that it welcomed newly implemented measures by the federal government to tackle mobile number fraud, which it suggested is the gateway to identity theft.

However, Fiona Cameron, authority member at the ACMA agreed with Fletcher’s sentiments that there is more work in this space to be done.

“I congratulate Communications Alliance and its members for developing these stricter security measures, but more is required. We know that some telcos, mainly smaller resellers, are still not providing satisfactory protection to consumers,” said Ms Cameron.

“We welcome the Minister’s direction to lift these obligations into an enforceable industry standard that will apply to all providers. This work will be a priority for the ACMA.

“In the interim, consumers should ask their provider what measures they have in place to protect their phone number and personal identity.”

Mobile number fraud, the act of scammers stealing details to gain access to someone’s phone number, is an issue that ACMA has been specifically considering since March 2019 with the introduction of The Scam Technology Project.

Through the project, new requirements were outlined by Communications Alliance for telecommunication companies when transferring mobile numbers, including two-factor authentication.

In addition to its focus on two-factor authentication, ACMA stated it is working with the telecommunications industry and plans to release an action plan to limit phone scams. 

“If criminals are using technology to scam Australians, we need to make sure we are using technology to fight back. The measure I am announcing today is the first outcome from the Scam Technology Project – but I expect there will be more in coming months,” Minister Fletcher added.

“Criminals will continue to look for new ways to rip off Australians using the telephone system. That is why tackling telecommunications scams is a priority for the Morrison Government.” 

The Scam Technology Project is expected to hand findings to Fletcher in late November.  

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