Telco industry unites to combat phone scammers

Telecommunications Carriers Forum releases new Code of Practice for public consultation

A code of practice dealing with phone scammers has been released for public consultation by the Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF).

TCF CEO Geoff Thorn says the Code provides a consistent approach and process for identifying, verifying and blocking scam calls. It has been developed with network providers including 2degrees, Spark, Symbio Wholesale, TNZI, Vocus and Vodafone. The companies have been working on the code since June 2017 and it is expected to be in force, following public consultation, by July.

According to the TCF, New Zealand is being targeted by off-shore scammers calling or texting landline and mobile users, with the objective of extracting money from the recipient of those calls or messages.

The new Code outlines some of the most common approaches by scammers. These include ‘Wangiri calls’ in which the caller hangs up after one ring or less, before the receiver can answer. This is to entice the receiver to call back and, once connected they are charged premium rates while a message plays to entice them to stay on the line as long as possible. Another is the ‘Government Grant’ scam, in which the receiver is offered money in the form of a grant. The caller will then try to gain personal information from the receiver and often direct payments in the form of Western Union, iTunes voucher codes or other non-refundable, and difficult to trace, methods.

Spark Home, Mobile and Business Acting CEO Grant McBeath says that prior to the Code, network operators acted separately to deal with scammers and reporting was informal. In addition to supporting the Code, Spark has also created a webpage that will report up-to-date scam alerts.

“As scammers are constantly changing their approach, both in terms of the stories they tell and the technology they use, the expectation is that this will reduce scam volumes, not stop scam calls from occurring,” McBeath says.

Thorn says that scammers are becoming more sophisticated, and often have access to personal information, which they have obtained through a third party, and may use “advanced systems” to make it appear as though they are calling from a New Zealand number.

“The telco industry can only do so much to monitor what phone services are being used for,” he says.

“It’s still up to members of the public to alert their service provider to any suspicious calls. Consumers also need to proceed with caution when receiving calls claiming to be from a telco provider, IT company or Government agency, asking for personal or financial information. We advise against giving access to personal information over the phone in these instances.”

 

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