Following recent reports of scam calling activity, the NZ Telecommunications Forum (TCF) has drafted the Scam Calling Prevention Code for public consultation, formalising a range of processes in place for the telco industry to deal with instances of scam callers.
The finalised code is expected to be in force in July.
“The industry has been working together for several years, sharing information to help prevent instances of scams recurring” says Geoff Thorn, TCF CEO.
“The Scam Calling Prevention Code drafted by the TCF reinforces and standardises the processes already in place, to help the industry react more quickly to any incidence of fraud reported by the public, and block calls from numbers used by scammers. The draft code also provides for sharing information with third parties where it is appropriate," says Thorn, in a statement.
The code has been developed by the TCF in conjunction with network operators who provide landline and mobile services, including 2degrees, Spark, Symbio Wholesale, TNZI, Vocus and Vodafone. Once in place, it will create a consistent approach to identifying, verifying and blocking scam calls. It’s anticipated to reduce the number of instances of scam calls received by consumers, while minimising the impact of traffic monitoring on legitimate calls.
But Thorn warns the code is not a solution guaranteed to end all instances of scam calling. “Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach” says Thorn. “Often, they have access to personal information obtained through third party sources and may use advanced systems to make it appear as though they are calling from a genuine NZ phone number. The telco industry can only do so much to monitor what phone services are being used for.”
“It’s still up to members of the public to alert their service provider to any suspicious calls. Consumers also need to proceed with caution when receiving calls claiming to be from a telco provider, IT company or Government agency, asking for personal or financial information. We advise against giving access to personal information over the phone in these instances.”
Spark New Zealand, meanwhile, says scam calls nearly always originate from overseas.
Overseas scamming operations tend to cycle through a variety of international and local numbers to make their activity appear legitimate and use calling techniques that go through several providers to make it harder to trace the origin of the call, says Spark.
“If people remember one thing, it should be this: Spark will never contact you out of the blue and ask for your personal information,” says Grant McBeath, acting CEO for Spark home, mobile and business.
“Avoid calling back international numbers you don’t recognise and if you are unsure if the call is genuine, the best thing you can do is hang up.”
Prior to the TCF Code, each network operator acted against scams individually, reporting scams amongst each other on an informal basis. The Scam Calling Prevention Code will establish a consistent and shared approach to identify and block scam calls between networks in New Zealand and from overseas.
“The fact that the whole industry has got behind this code is a great step forward,” says McBeath, in a statement.
“Historically, when we’ve seen scam activity on our network, we’ve lacked a fast and simple way to coordinate between other New Zealand service providers to block scam activity when we see it.
“This new code puts in place processes and timeframes to quickly tackle scam calling patterns once we’ve identified them and share them amongst other networks for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”
However, as scammers are constantly changing their approach, both in terms of the stories they tell and the technology they use, the expectation is that this will reduce scam volumes, not stop scam calls from occurring.
“The most effective way to stay safe from scams is still to be vigilant and wary when a call is unexpected,” says McBeath.
“Even if we manage to reduce scam calls significantly through this new partnership, some scam calls will still get through. Ultimately, we need every individual to know what to look out for.”
Because of this, Spark has taken scam prevention a step further for their customers by introducing a range of proactive initiatives that will be rolled out over the next few months.
McBeath says, “As technology reaches new levels of sophistication, so do the scams. We want to take a lead in providing our customers with tools that arm them to protect not only themselves but their family and friends.”
The first initiative to launch today is a new webpage that will report up-to-date scam alerts. When new scamming methods are reported to Spark, the webpage will be updated to reflect this new activity. As a result, consumers will be able to view the different tactics a scammer might be using and be aware of the latest characteristics of a scam across both email and phone.
Spark says while it is playing an active role in limiting the number of scam communication out there, it’s not always possible to detect scam activity. Customers are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org when they have received a scam that differs to the ones listed on the scam alert page.
“Once we can verify the scam, we will have it listed on our webpage as soon as possible,” says McBeath.
“With these initiatives, alongside the implementation of the TCF Scam Prevention Code, we hope we will be able to reduce the number of scam calls reaching Kiwi shores and then empower more people to prevent any scam attempts from being successful.”
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