Australia’s telecoms regulator introduced rules requiring mobile operators to identify, trace and block SMS scams, as it takes additional steps to protect consumers from the growing impact of the illegal activity.

In a statement, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) explained it coordinated with industry body Communications Alliance to develop the Reducing Scam Calls and Scam Short Messages industry code.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the new measures build on a code to tackle scam calls introduced in 2020 and aim to make the country a harder target for scammers. “SMS scams can be highly sophisticated and have devastating financial and emotional impacts for victims.”

She added there is “no silver bullet, but we know enforceable laws can have a significant impact and every blocked scam is a win for consumers”.

“The harder we make it for scammers, the less Australians are likely to be targeted.”

Operators are required to publish information to help customers manage and report SMS scams to other operators and the authorities.

They face penalties of up to AUD250,000 ($168.2 million) for breaching the code.

Financial losses from SMS scams increased 188 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2022 to more than AUD6.5 million, accounting for about 32 per cent of all reported scams, data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission showed.

Last month, Australia and New Zealand boosted ongoing joint efforts to address the threat of spam and SMS scams through more strategic cooperation and information sharing.