Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Telstra switches on SMS scam filter for phones in Australia

If you’ve suddenly begun to get fewer SMS scams in the past few months, and you’re on Telstra or one of its supported virtual operators, there’s a good reason why.

We wouldn’t blame you if you tried not to look at your phone over the past few months, and not just because of all that’s been happening in the world.

Take a look at your text messaging inbox and you’ll probably get a good idea as to why, because SMS scams are up in the most frustrating of ways. Lately, scammers seem to have become very good at dodging the security telcos use, employing a mixture of poorly written texts about deliveries and voicemail messages with phishing links meant to deceive, broken up by spaces, punctuation, and enough broken jibberish to make you wonder if the sender is perhaps clearly unwell or just a scammer trying to pull one over you.

It’s more than likely the latter, and the scam numbers keep on going up, but subscribers to Telstra and to the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) may have noticed less over the past couple of months, as Telstra added to its Cleaner Pipes program with a scam message filter to block and filter out dodgy SMS trying to make their way to you.

According to Telstra, the technology is a complex filter that looks for suspicious trends in text messages, and using machine learning picks out the suspicious links and characteristics seen in scam texts, blocking them in the process.

“We know there’s a fine balance between protecting our customers and ensuring their privacy,” said Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra.

“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,” he said.

According to Telstra, its technology is present blocking up to 1.8 million scam text messages a day, with 50 million texts sent out on an average week day, with this working throughout. It told Pickr that it’s actually similar technology to what some overseas telcos are using to block scam messages, and that implementation began just after Russia invaded the Ukraine, something Telstra expected would see an increase of scam activity.

The filter also works not just across Telstra, but also services using Telstra’s network, such as Aldi, Belong, Boost, Mate, and Woolworths Mobile, to name a few, helping subscribers of those services, as well. Like Cleaner Pipes, it benefits users of the Telstra network, regardless of whether or not they subscribe through Telstra or not.

Interestingly, you can also turn it off if you want to. If you’re concerned some messages aren’t getting through, you can send a message to Telstra’s filter service at 0438214682 with the words “FILTER OFF”, while “FILTER ON” will switch it back on again. For most Australians using Telstra, though, this feature has been switched on, and will hopefully thwart more scams from coming in. For now, anyway.

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