ACMA to crack down on SIM-swap scammers

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is laying down the law to stop SIM-swap fraudsters, announcing that it will introduce new industry rules to protect customers later this year.

Designed to enforce stronger identity checks by telcos when performing high-risk customer requests, the new Telecommunications Service Provider (Customer Identity Authentication) Determination 2022 will come into effect from June 30, 2022.

How the ACMA is targeting SIM scams

SIM-swap fraud is common in Australia, and involves scammers gaining access to a customer’s personal data by convincing a mobile provider to port that customer’s phone number to a new SIM. Once the fraudulent SIM-swap is complete, the scammer will then receive calls and text messages intended for the customer, which may allow them to access the victims’ passwords and account details.

This includes accounts such as online banking, which typically relies on two-factor authentication to approve transactions – often, by sending a confirmation SMS to a customer’s phone number.

According to the ACCC’s ScamWatch, Australians lost $10,158,930 to identity theft scams in 2021, with 22,354 scams reported. The ACMA states that the average loss incurred by an individual victim of SIM-swapping is around $28,000, meaning it’s a scam that can cause serious financial impact for customers.

Fiona Cameron, Chair of the ACMA’s Scam Taskforce, said the new rules will target scammers who use SIM-swap fraud to circumvent account security measures.

“SIM-swap scams can cause a lot of harm as scammers take control of your phone number and then use that to gain access to your online banking accounts,” said Ms Cameron.

“These new rules require multi-factor authentication of your identity such as confirming personal information and responding with a one-time code consistent with how other essential services like banking operate.”

The new rules will require telcos to perform more thorough identity checks on customers who request number porting, SIM card swaps, or any changes to their personal account information. The  ACMA will also be given stronger enforcement powers, including the ability to instigate court proceeding for telcos who breach the new policy.

“We expect these rules will go a long way to stamping out unauthorised transactions like SIM-swap fraud and improve safeguards for telco customers,” said Ms Cameron.

What to do if you’ve been scammed

If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a SIM-swap scam – or any form of identity theft – there are steps you can take to protect your data and prevent further losses.

  • Contact your bank or financial institution immediately to report the scam. Your bank may be able to stop or reverse a transaction, and close your account or credit card to stop future theft.
  • Contact IDCARE online or by calling 1800 585 160. This is a free, government-funded service that can support you through identity theft.
  • Change any online passwords that may have been compromised, including banking, email, social media, etc.
  • In the case of SIM-swap and porting scams, you should also contact your mobile provider.
  • You may also wish to report the scam to the ACCC here.

More information about preventing and reporting scams is available from the ACCC’s ScamWatch service.

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