Telstra technicians upgrade mobile towers as part of the rollout of the 5G network.

Telstra has introduced a new SMS scam filter feature to better protect customers from scam text messages by blocking them at a network level before they reach mobile devices.

The move comes after a rise in scam text messages on the Telstra network – in 2021, there were more than 11,000 reports of malicious texts to Android devices compared to 50 reports in 2020.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said scam text messages were not only annoying but malicious, and had potential to steal money or install malware to steal personal information, hack people’s internet banking and infect contacts.

Mr Penn said a three-month pilot program involving 2500 employees had been a succes, with Telstra able to detect and block hundreds of scam SMS messages every day.

“Now we’ve fine-tuned this technology, we have rolled it out to every customer on Telstra’s network – so whether you’re on a consumer plan, a managed device through your company, or you’re signed up to another provider that uses the Telstra network like Belong – you’re now better protected from millions of scam text messages sent every day,” he said.

“And the best thing is there’s nothing you need to do – it’s already switched on for you.”

Mr Penn said if an SMS message looked suspicious, Telstra would block it before it reached people.

“Automatic machine scanning picks out suspicious content such as malicious links and combines this with other patterns and characteristics like the time, sender, the number of messages sent and the recipient,” he said.

“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.

“There are also protections in place to ensure legitimate messages still get through, so we won’t block commercial messages from banks and other large businesses, government departments, Emergency Alerts and Telstra applications like MessageBank.”

People can learn more about how to spot and protect themselves from scams at www.
scamwatch.gov.au.