ATO, NBN call scam crackdown


PHONE scammers pretending to be from the Australian Taxation Office or National Broadband Network will be blocked from reaching their intended victims in a new federal government crackdown aimed at curtailing millions of dollars in losses annually.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is creating a "Do Not Originate" register containing the legitimate numbers of organisations including the tax office and banks which it will then prevent from being used by fraudsters.

The calls come from overseas but are made to look local through "overstamping".

In partnership with telecommunications companies, the ACMA-led crackdown aims to put a stop to overstamping.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which is involved in the new crackdown, said its Scamwatch service had received nearly 13,000 ATO impersonation reports so far this year, with losses of $1.17 million.

Scamwatch has also fielded 11,000 NBN impersonation reports, with known losses of $1.4 million.

Early next year an attack will also be launched on rorts that attempt to get the unwitting to ring back expensive premium numbers by leaving a missed call, known as the 'Wangiri' scam - the Japanese word for 'one ring and cut'.

"For too long, scammers have been targeting Australians," Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said. "At the very least, they have been creating a major inconvenience, by harassing us over the phone, email and internet. At worst, they have caused victims significant emotional and financial hardship."

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. Picture: Kym Smith
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. Picture: Kym Smith

The third prong in the crackdown involves targeting telecommunications networks that carry high volumes of scam traffic from overseas.

"It's about time we felt comfortable answering the phone again," said the ACMA's scam project head Fiona Cameron.