SMS: Scam Message Service?.

18 March 2022 | Reading time: 2 minutes

Have you recently received a text that didn’t seem right? Maybe it looked like one of these:

  • ‘Your package is on its way: get it as soon as possible! Click this link!’
  • ‘Hello, I’ve seen this video of you on the internet! Click here to see!’
  • ‘Hi, do you need a part time job? Click this link!’

If that’s a yes, then unfortunately you are one of the millions of Australians that has had this happen to them.

Ringing it in: floods of reports sent to ACCC’s Scamwatch department

Alarmingly, scams have become increasingly prevalent in Australia in recent years. The ACCC responded to this by setting up a dedicated branch called Scamwatch to help combat these scams.

According to Scamwatch, there has been an 89% increase in overall scams reported in the past year. More than half of these scams were ‘phone based’ scams, resulting in losses of over $63.6 million.

These messages, referred to as ‘flubot scams’, generally operate by claiming to be from reputable businesses or governmental agencies.

When you click on the link included in the text, you are prompted to download an application which harvests your personal information (including your message history, contact list, passwords and accounts). This information may then be used not only to further spread the scam, but also to hack into your banking apps with potentially costly consequences.

Autocorrect:  Dealing with flubot scams now and into the future

The Federal government has made some recent amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth), which allow telcos to actively identify and block flubot scam texts.

There is a pilot program currently running, with some success, which scans the content of these texts for suspicious patterns and characteristics and intercepts them. Despite this, individuals should always exercise caution with their devices, including following the ACCC’s recommendation to delete these texts and refraining from clicking any links.

If you are a victim of a flubot scam, the ACCC urges you to:

  1. immediately clean your phones by either downloading an anti-virus application or doing a factory reset of devices;
  2. update all passwords and accounts. You should also contact your financial institution to ensure that your account security is maintained and they are made aware of the scam.

Australians are being urged to be more vigilant and to report these scams to help Scamwatch warn others about such flubot scams. It is also pleasing to see telcos now having more powers to block malicious scam attacks.