Optus Call Stop halts scammers before they can get you

Anxious woman on phone - Optus Call Stop
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In a bid to save Australians from falling victim to SMS scams, Optus has launched Call Stop, a new automated technology designed to prevent calls from connecting to numbers associated with scams.

It’s an innovative technology that’s been driven by Optus partnering with the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX) and banks to thwart financial scams. Specifically, Call Stop deals with fraudulent SMS and email messages that attempt to get you to call back and provide sensitive information.

Earlier in the year, the ACCC released its Targeting Scams report, finding that Australians lost over $3 billion to scams in 2022. Of all of the losses recorded, phone, SMS and email scams accounted for well over $200 million in losses. Stopping scams is Optus’ latest project, fresh off announcing a partnership with SpaceX aimed at providing complete mobile coverage in Australia.

How does Optus Call Stop work?

As detailed in the official announcement from Optus, Call Stop targets call-back scams. These involve receiving a message claiming that something is wrong with your bank account, including a prompt to call a number back to resolve the issue. However, it’s entirely a ruse intended to get you on the phone and chatting with a scammer impersonating your bank. It revolves around tricking you into sending money to the scammer or unwittingly giving them access to your account.

Call Stop comes into play by preventing Optus customers from making that phone call in the first place. If you’re a customer and try calling a number known for scam activities, it won’t connect. Instead, you’ll hear the following automated message:

“The number you have called has been reported as being used for scam activities. For more information, please visit optus.com.au/callstop.”

Data from Optus indicates that the telco blocks roughly five million calls and 10 million SMS messages each month. Since December 2020, it has blocked 320 million calls through various means, and nearly 80 million SMS scam messages in the past year. According to Andrew Sheridan, Optus Vice President, Regulatory & Public Affairs, Call Stop is another way the company aims to deal with scammers.

“Call Stop is our latest weapon in this battle and protects customers when they have been tricked into ringing a scam number,” Sheridan said. “The automated message very clearly exposes the scam, and the number is then blocked.”

SMS scams a big focus for cybersecurity

Optus is one of many parties concerned about the proliferation of SMS-based scams. Earlier last year, Telstra launched scam filters aimed at preventing messages from reaching you in the first place. It’s an issue that grew exponentially during the early stages of the pandemic, with Australia sitting fourth on the cybercrime victims per capita rankings.

Security and anti-virus companies also have products aimed at shutting down message-based scams. Late last year, Bitdefender launched Chat Protection, a real-time service that monitors popular messaging apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Discord. In this example, the service prevents you from navigating to suspicious links and warns you if a link seems shady.

On Call Stop from Optus, David Pegley, the Managing Director at ACFX, added that call and text scams “are on the rise in 2023”, with scammers pulling out all the stops to claim victims.

“Our collaboration with Optus, with the support of our banking members, uses innovative technology to better protect consumers being targeted by scammers,” Pegley said “It’s hoped that initiatives like Call Stop will curb the acceleration of this scamming technique.”

Another way to keep on top of scams is to regularly check Scamwatch. It’s a government-funded site that lists details about known scams along with avenues to report new methods. If you’re even remotely concerned about any suspicious communication you’ve received, it’s worth looking up.

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