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February, 2024

Federal Government’s $10m SMS sender ID registry could be mandatory for all

The Albanese Government has initiated a new strategy to combat SMS scammers with the launch of the SMS Sender ID Registry. The Registry operates by maintaining a controlled list of registered brand names’ numbers, preventing text messages from being sent using these names unless the originating number matches the approved phone number on the Registry.

A pilot of the Registry was launched in December 2023, with Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, the Australian Tax Office, and Services Australia among the first to sign up. Participating telcos, including Telstra, Optus, TPG Telecom, and Pivotal, are required to block any suspicious messages before they are sent.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is receiving $10 million over four years to launch and maintain the Registry. This move comes in response to the fact that more than 47% of Australians have reported exposure to fake or deceptive text messages in the past year. In 2022, Australians lost an estimated $3.1 billion to scams.

The Registry is part of the Albanese Government’s broader agenda to fight scams and protect Australians. This includes the establishment of the National Anti-Scam Centre (NASC) within the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The NASC is leveraging expertise and resourcing from across government, law enforcement, telecommunications providers, financial services, digital platforms, and other intermediaries to deliver a cohesive strategy to combat scams.

In last year’s Budget, the Albanese Government also provided $17.6 million to ASIC to bust fake investment websites that promote scams, and recently consulted on a new industry code framework to place robust obligations on key sectors to protect consumers from scams.

In the six months since the NASC was stood up, reported losses to scams reduced by 29% compared to the same period in 2022.

A consultation is open until 20 March 2024 for feedback on whether the scheme should be mandatory for all entities that use message headers to contact Australian consumers.

“The Albanese Government’s innovative SMS Sender ID Registry is helping to stop criminals from ripping Australians off through sophisticated text message scams. We’re committed to a national rollout of the Registry that works for both Australians and the businesses that serve them. Feedback from consumers, businesses, charities and government services will help inform the next phase of the Registry, including on whether the scheme should be mandatory. I encourage all interested Australians to have their say,” said Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP.

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, the Hon Stephen Jones MP, added, “The government went to the election with a commitment to fight scammers, and we are doing exactly that. We’re taking on scammers at every angle; from disrupting their ability to communicate with Australians, to putting obligations on banks, telcos and social media platforms to protect consumers. The registry is an important next step in our fight, but we know these criminals continue to prey on Australians and we urge people to remain vigilant.”