Spearheading the Fight Against SMS Scammers: A Thought Leader's Perspective
In the ongoing battle against SMS scammers, visionary leaders emerge to challenge the status quo and advocate for innovative solutions. One such visionary is Laurence Buchanan, the CEO of BNS Group. With his deep understanding of the industry and concern to protecting consumers, Buchanan is positioning himself as a thought leader in the war against SMS scammers. In this blog piece, we explore Buchanan’s perspective on the $10 million funding allocated by the Australian Federal Government to establish an SMS ALPHA Sender ID Registry, and his belief that Australia should follow the footsteps of countries like the United States of America and New Zealand by abolishing ALPHA sender IDs altogether.
The Rising Threat of SMS Scammers:
The proliferation of SMS scams poses a significant threat to individuals and businesses alike. These scams manipulate the trust placed in text messages and exploit unsuspecting victims, leading to financial loss, identity theft, and personal distress. As SMS scammers become increasingly sophisticated, it becomes crucial for governments and industry leaders to collaborate and devise effective strategies to combat this menace.
Scammers are still able to spoof caller IDs on phone calls and also sender IDs on SMS text messaging. The Federal Government imposed obligations on the industry a long time ago to detect scammers using spoofed calling numbers on the voice and SMS network. To block ALPHA sender IDs in SMS would make it easier for industry and government to regulate legitimate SMS numbers called ‘MSISDNs’ which are allocated within the Australian mobile networks. To set up a registry of Alpha sender IDs and then attempt to control who has the right to send as “Google”, “NAB”, “Nab”, “ATO”, “Ato” or “BNS” will be complex. Case sensitivity has already affected one BNS customer sending Upper and lower-case Alpha Sender IDs using one major SMS Service provider.
Laurence Buchanan’s Stance:
Laurence Buchanan firmly believes that addressing the SMS scamming epidemic requires bold and decisive action. While acknowledging the Australian Federal Government’s effort to allocate $10 million for establishing a SMS ALPHA Sender ID registry, Buchanan contends that this approach might not yield the desired results and could be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Drawing inspiration from countries like the United States of America, where SMS ALPHA Sender IDs have been abolished altogether, Buchanan proposes an alternative approach for Australia. He argues that eliminating SMS ALPHA Sender IDs would restrict the scammers’ ability to deceive individuals by masking their true identity. Instead of investing in infrastructure to manage and regulate SMS ALPHA Sender IDs, Buchanan suggests that redirecting those resources toward more comprehensive anti-scam initiatives could be more effective in combating SMS fraud.
The Benefits of Abolishing SMS ALPHA Sender IDs:
Advocating for the abolition of SMS ALPHA Sender IDs not without merit. By eliminating ALPHA sender IDs, Australia would join countries that have already taken this step, effectively curtailing scammers’ ability to exploit this SMS feature. This approach simplifies the regulatory landscape, making it easier to identify and block suspicious or malicious sender IDs. Additionally, it alleviates the burden on individuals and businesses to verify the authenticity of messages, fostering a more secure and trustworthy SMS environment.
A Comprehensive Approach:
While advocating for the elimination of ALPHA sender IDs, Laurence Buchanan emphasises the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach to tackle SMS scams. He suggests a multi-pronged strategy that combines technological advancements, public awareness campaigns, and collaboration between government agencies, telecommunication providers, and industry stakeholders. By fostering information sharing and implementing robust security measures, this approach aims to stay one step ahead of scammers and minimise the impact of SMS fraud. The challenge for Government and Industry, even if ALPHA sender IDs are blocked, is to identify legitimate MSISDNs (real SMS numbers) allocated to customers within Australian networks. Other countries implement numeric long or short codes to help manage SMS messaging which could play a significant role for managing overseas sourced messages for example.
A compelling illustration of this can be observed through the Federal Government National Anti-Scam Centre, a recent announcement that showcases commendable progress. Commencing on 1 July 2023, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has embarked on the development of a novel system aimed at enhancing the exchange of scam-related information between the Government and private sector entities. This advanced system will facilitate secure and frequent data sharing among various agencies, law enforcement bodies, and industry stakeholders. By enabling swift action against scammers and safeguarding customers, businesses will be empowered to protect their clientele effectively. The implementation of this initiative is projected to span a period of three years.
The centre will establish partnerships and use expertise from the private sector, consumer groups and other regulators. The ACCC has final responsibility for decisions. The Centre will be guided by an Advisory Board with representatives to be drawn from the finance, digital platforms, and telecommunications sectors as well as consumer advocates, victim support services, and others with relevant expertise. The ACCC will run a process to finalise membership on the Advisory Board. There will also be opportunities to contribute to work across a range of working groups and fusion cells. An initial Regulator Steering Group was set up to support the planning of the centre. It included representatives from the:
- Australian Taxation Office
- Department of Home Affairs
- Australian Communications and Media Authority
- Australian Securities and Investment Commission
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Additionally, the National Australia Bank (NAB) has made a significant stride in combating scams and fraudulent activities. In a proactive endeavor, NAB has recently declared the discontinuation of utilising unexpected text message links to reach out to customers. This decisive measure serves as a major crackdown to mitigate the detrimental impact of scams and fraud.
In the fight against SMS scammers, thought leaders like Laurence Buchanan play a crucial role in shaping the industry’s response and pushing for meaningful change. His belief that the $10 million funding allocated by the Australian Federal Government for an ALPHA Sender ID registry may not stop scammers finding ways to spoof ALPHA sender IDs. By advocating for Australia to follow the lead of countries that have abolished ALPHA sender IDs altogether, Buchanan positions himself as a visionary leader, driving innovation and progress in the war against SMS scammers. It is through such bold initiatives and collaborations that we can hope to create a safer digital environment for all.