Somehow, in 2022, we’ve managed to turn phones from devices for calling people into wonders of technology unimaginable even a few decades ago. All of the information collected over thousands of years of human civilisation is instantly accessible at our fingertips, plus a whole load of cat videos.
Yet despite these advancements, we’ve all but ceded the territory of phone calls to scammers.
Think about it. We never even bother picking up random numbers or answering dodgy texts, purely from the suspicion and unwillingness to deal with another person trying to con us.
Australians reported some 286,000 scams in 2021, costing an estimated $323 million in lost finances. The vast majority of these scams — and some are certainly more complex than others — come through our phones, so we’re more than justified in ignoring those random calls.
The latest of these appears to be a wave of texts in garbled English telling you that you have a package ready for delivery and to click the link in the text to arrange pick up. Doing so will likely install some malware onto your device which could get access to your banking details. In the era of mass online shopping, it’s an easy one to fall for.
While the Australian Communications and Media Authority have attempted to strengthen protections for consumers, by making telephone service providers publish information on scams while reporting them to other providers and authorities, the scams continue relatively uninterrupted.
To this end, Telstra has announced a new ‘scam filter’ service which claims to be able to identify and block text messaging scams before they reach your phone.
The new service has been piloted by the telco over the last three months and they say that during that period, hundreds of scam messages each day have been identified and blocked during a trial on 2,500 of their employees.
Telstra has said that they’re now ready to roll out the service to customers.
From today, anyone on a Telstra plan, or a plan that uses the Telstra network, like Belong, should expect to receive far fewer scam text messages.
Telstra CEO Andy Penn has said that the new technology is “complex and evolving” but uses information on what scam texts generally look like to “block them at the network level”.
“If an SMS message looks suspicious, we’ll block it before it reaches you,” Penn said.
“Automatic machine scanning picks out suspicious content such as malicious links and combines this with other patterns and characteristics like the time, sender, the number of messages sent and the recipient”.
Telstra also report that the new system is a work in progress and will be constantly checked and updated to stop it from blocking legitimate messages. Commercial messages from banks, businesses, government departments, and emergency alerts are also protected under the service.
The service is already switched on by default for Telstra users, however, the company has also said that if you do not want the service, you can opt out by texting ‘FILTER OFF’ to 0438214682. If you change your mind later, you can text ‘FILTER ON’ to the same number.