Scams the focus of new government initiative

The Australian government has scammers in its sights, with the establishment of the National Anti-Scam Centre (NASC). Scams have exploded in frequency over the past few years and the consequences for victims can be devastating.

Latest figures show that there has been a five-fold increase in scams since 2020. The average loss for each scam is $20,000. For most Australians, that’s a lot of money.

According to federal minister for financial services Stephen Jones, scams cost Aussies more than $3 billion in 2022 alone.

The annoying thing about scams is that the perpetrators always seem to be one step ahead in terms of technology. Catching up and surpassing the scammers in this area will be a key focus of the NASC, Mr Jones said.

“The NASC will be the government’s primary weapon to detect, disrupt and deter scammers and tackle online fraud,” he said.

Mr Jones described the NASC approach as “world leading”, comprising partnerships between government agencies, banks, telcos and digital platforms.

How will the NASC tackle scams and scammers?

The NASC promises to:

  • use cutting‑edge technology to share intelligence across government and with authorised industry participants to interrupt scams in real time
  • combine the expertise of government and the private sector to disrupt scams
  • raise consumer awareness on the risk of scams and how to avoid them.

To deliver on those promises, the government allocated $58 million towards the establishment of the NASC in May’s Federal Budget. Mr Jones says the agency will be operational from 1 July 2023. It will sit within the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Deputy chair of the ACCC Catriona Lowe welcomed the government’s commitment to scam reduction.

“We’ll be using this funding to build the technology needed to support high frequency data sharing with a range of agencies, law enforcement and the private sector, with the mission to make Australia a harder target for scammers,” she said.

The scourge of SMS and website scams

One of the NASC’s first targets will be SMS scams. If you are yet to be targeted by one of these, you are probably in the minority. A common one has been messages purporting to be from road toll company Linkt.

In most cases, these messages will advise you of an “outstanding toll” with a link to a payment page. I received one of these just this week, with a web address using the spelling ‘Lintk’, rather than ‘Linkt’.

Scam websites will indeed be another early focus, according to a statement from the NASC.

“In the first year of operation, the National Anti-Scam Centre will work closely with ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) in delivering its scam website takedown service and support ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) to continue its important work in combatting telecommunications scams.”

The federal government has also committed to introduce an SMS Sender ID register, similar to that implemented in Singapore. “[This] will assist in disrupting impersonation scams and help consumers determine whether a text message using a sender ID is from a trusted source,” Ms Lowe said.  

While these government initiatives are positive steps, it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to scams. Be wary of phone calls, messages and emails asking for money and/or personal details, and do not pass on either if you have any doubts.

The establishment of the NASC is welcome, but scams will not be disappearing anytime soon.

Have you been targeted by scammers? Do you feel the government is doing enough to prevents scams? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Psychic scams are swindling Australians out of thousands of dollars

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


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