We’re now blocking over 13 million scam calls a month

Over the past few months, we’ve implemented a few new upgrades to our platform to catch even more suspicious calls.
Narelle Devine · 15 June 2021 · 3 minute read

We are now blocking around 13 million suspected scam calls on average per month from reaching end customers, which is a two-fold increase on the 6.5 million suspected scam calls we were blocking just four months ago.

Over the past few months, we’ve implemented a few new upgrades to our platform to catch even more suspicious calls, making our blocking strategy more aggressive with the ability to detect more types of scam calls than before.

Protecting customers from potential scams is a big deal – Scamwatch says that scam calls have cost Australians nearly $25 million already this year, on track to surpass last year’s $48.2 million that was lost to scam calls. So you can see why we’re working hard to try and stop these calls.

How we are detecting more calls than ever

We have made improvements to the way we block Wangiri scam calls. This is a type of call I think most of us might be familiar with – do you ever get a call from a random international number, it rings once and then stops? This is a type of call that scammers use to try and get you to call them back, which if you do, is where the scam begins. The international number is typically an expensive premium number and the scammers try to keep you on the line for as long as possible to milk money out of you.

We are also improving methods to detect and block scam calls with numbers that appear to be from a known source, but are not. This is called spoofing, and it’s when a scammer disguises the number they are calling from by changing the caller ID to look like a local number, which we all tend to trust more than international numbers, or a trusted brand name, like Telstra or the ATO (Australian Tax Office). This is a popular technique, as scammers from overseas know that the appearance of a local or trusted number increases the chance someone will answer the call.

We are also very careful not to block legitimate calls that could prevent customers connecting. That, combined with the fact that scammers are always finding new tactics means that no technology platform will ever stop scam calls entirely and we’re working hard to continue evolving our algorithms and detection methods to block existing and future scamming tactics.

The work we’re doing to target scam calls is part of our Cleaner Pipes initiative, where we are working to reduce the harm of phishing, malware, ransomware and other scams across our networks both online and through voice and SMS. We recently rolled out a new capability to make SMS safer too, with the first impact being to block illegitimate messages pretending to be from Services Australia from reaching Telstra customers’ phones.

We are doing all of this to protect our customers and their livelihoods because we know that we can have a significant impact by taking proactive action at a network level.

Working together to stop scams

Cyber security is a team effort and relies on industry working together to keep Australians safe. We are also working with other carriers and our regulators to trace back the origin of scam calls, so that we as an industry can stop the people bringing these calls into Australia in the first place.

This team effort is another big reason we’ve been able to block so many more scam attempts, with industry’s new Reducing Scam Calls Code coming into effect.

Telstra was a key contributor to the Code, which has given us and other telcos the regulatory foundation to block numbers that are non-telco compliant. It also sets out the expectation for telcos to collaborate more to block illegitimate calls more aggressively and this is a big win for the industry and customers.

Keeping our customers safe from scammers is something very important to us, and we’ve come a long way in a short time to reduce the amount of calls and risk of this activity to customers. This is just the beginning though, and we’ll continue to implement new ways to stop as many different types of scam calls as possible.

5 things to watch out for to protect yourself

  1. Don’t be convinced if it looks like an incoming call is from a legitimate business or government organisation.
  2. Is the caller pressuring you and making it seem like the matter is urgent? Be very suspicious of calls of this nature. Hang up and search online for the official number of the organisation they are calling from and use that number to call back.
  3. Take note of the time of day – is it a reasonable time for a trusted organisation to be calling you? Be suspicious of calls late at night or on weekends.
  4. Is an unknown number or trusted brand trying to call you repeatedly? This is a hallmark of a scam call.
  5. The golden rule: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is calling you about an opportunity or about winning a prize (especially one you don’t remember entering!), it’s probably a scam.

Remember, if you think you’re receiving a scam call, just hang up. If you’re not sure about whether you’re speaking to a real business or a scammer, take their details and say you’ll call them back.

Whatever you do, don’t provide personal information or bank account information to anyone who you weren’t expecting a call from or don’t know – regardless of who they say they are. A healthy dose of skepticism might just save you from a scam!

If you think you might have been scammed, check our Active Scams page and consider reporting the scam to Telstra – especially if the scam involved impersonating Telstra – and we can help secure your account.

See more tips and advice on how to spot a scam phone call


By Narelle Devine

Chief Information Security Officer, Asia Pacific

Narelle has a diverse background having worked across the military, government and corporate sectors. Narelle began her career in the Royal Australian Navy before joining the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services as Chief Information Security Officer. In June 2020 Narelle joined Telstra as the Chief Information Security Officer Asia Pacific. Narelle is responsible for the company’s cyber security operations, intelligence, risk, governance, compliance, development and engagement. Narelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in Information Systems and English, a Master of Science in Information Technology and a Master of Systems Engineering. In addition to her love of cyber operations she is passionate about workplace culture, diversity, training and recruitment and is a current member of the RSAC Advisory Board and the AISA Executive Advisory Board.

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