Blocking scam text messages before they even reach you

We’ve turned on a brand-new SMS scam filter feature to better protect you from scam text messages by blocking them at the network level before they even reach your mobile device.
Andrew Penn · 08 November 2022 · 3 minute read

Telstra's new SMS scam filter

Scam text messages are not only annoying, they’re also malicious and have the potential to steal your money or install malware to steal personal information, hack your internet banking and infect your contacts. We know the number of scam text messages on our network is on the rise – in 2021 we had more than 11,000 reports of malicious texts to Android devices compared to 50 reports in 2020.

That’s why we’ve turned on a brand-new feature to find and block SMS scam messages with suspicious links as they travel across our network, to stop many of them before they reach your mobile device.

We know it’s working because our people have been on an internal pilot program for the last three months. Around two and a half thousand employees have taken part, and we’ve been successful in detecting and blocking hundreds of scam SMS messages every day. Our people on the pilot program told us they saw a reduction in the number of scam SMS messages they received.

Now we’ve fine-tuned this technology, we have rolled it out to every customer on Telstra’s network – so whether you’re on a consumer plan, a managed device through your company, or you’re signed up to another provider that uses the Telstra network like Belong – you’re now better protected from millions of scam text messages sent every day.

And the best thing is there’s nothing you need to do – it’s already switched on for you.

How the technology works

The capability under the bonnet is complex and evolving – it has to be to continue to help outsmart scammers – but in simple terms, we’re applying knowledge of what scam text messages look like to block them at the network level.

If a SMS message looks suspicious, we’ll block it before it reaches you. 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 takes its privacy obligations seriously. We know there’s a fine balance between protecting our customers and ensuring their privacy. While the technology is learning, it might flag a potential suspicious message asking if it is a scam. To avoid blocking something legitimate, the new message format may be reviewed by our specialists to identify if the message is a scam, but the details of the recipients will remain masked.

There are also protections in place to ensure legitimate messages still get through, so we won’t block commercial messages from banks and other large businesses, government departments, Emergency Alerts and Telstra applications like MessageBank.

Another step forward in keeping networks safe

While we’re confident our SMS scam filter will block a significant amount of scam text messages, it isn’t fool-proof and criminals evolve and find new ways to scam us so we’ve all got to continue to be alert to suspicious messages – even the ones that might slip through. You can learn more about how to spot and protect yourself from scams at Scamwatch.

Now it’s on, Telstra’s SMS scam filter will block many of the millions of malicious text messages sent to our customers every day. Most customers will be seeing the benefit already. However, if you do not want any SMS messages sent to you being blocked, you can opt out by sending an SMS to 0438214682 with the words FILTER OFF. And if you change your mind you can turn it back on by sending a message to 0438214682 saying FILTER ON.

This is an exciting step in Telstra’s Cleaner Pipes initiative where we have already protected our customers by blocking over 100 million scam calls in the past year. We know you have probably all experienced a fake parcel delivery text message or badly punctuated message about a video or unexpected payment – now, with Telstra’s SMS scam filter switched on, you’ll be receiving fewer annoying and risky messages.

The good news is that there is no need for you to do anything, since we have turned it on across our network – and we won’t call you or send you an SMS or email asking you to click a link to access it.


By Andrew Penn

Former Chief Executive Officer

Andy Penn became the CEO and Managing Director of Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, on 1 May 2015. At Telstra, Andy is leading an ambitious change program transforming the business to be positioned to compete in the radically changing technology world of the future with 5G at its core. Andy has had an extensive career spanning 40 years across 3 different industries - telecommunications, financial services and shipping. He joined Telstra in 2012 as Chief Financial Officer. In 2014 he took on the additional responsibilities as Group Executive International.

Prior to Telstra, Andy spent 23 years with the AXA Group, one of the world’s largest insurance and investment groups. His time at AXA included the roles of Chief Executive Officer 2006-2011 AXA Asia Pacific Holdings, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Executive Asia and Chief Executive Australia and New Zealand.  At AXA, Andy was instrumental in building one of the most successful Asian businesses by an Australian company that was sold to its parent in 2011 for more than A$10bn.

Other directorships & appointments: Member of the Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria; Board Director of the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA); Chairman of the Australian Government’s Cyber Industry Advisory Panel, created to guide development of Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy; Patron, on behalf of Telstra, of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Awards (NATSIAA); Life Governor of Very Special Kids and an Ambassador for the Amy Gillett Foundation. He serves on the advisory boards of both The Big Issue Home for Homes and JDRF.

Recognition and qualifications: MBA (Kingston), AMP (Harvard), FCCA, HFAIPM. Andy has a national diploma in business studies (with distinction), is a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants, holds an MBA from Kingston University and is a graduate of Harvard’s Advanced Management Program. In 2008 Andy was recognised as Insurance Executive of the year in the Australian Banking and Finance Awards and in 2016 he was made an honorary fellow of the Australian Institute of Project Management. In 2018 Andy was named by the Financial Times among the top 10 male leaders globally HERoes list supporting women in business. In 2019 he was named by the Australian Financial Review as among the top 10 most powerful people in business.

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