A national anti-scam center will be up and running in July with a budget commitment of $58 million.
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones unveiled details of the new center on Monday, saying it will sit on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and act as a central place to report scams and share information with banks, law enforcement and vulnerable members of the community.
A ACCC report found recently that the combined losses suffered by Aussies from scams reported to government agencies amounted to at least $3.1 billion by 2022, an 80% increase over the previous year.
The competition watchdog has also estimated that 30% of people who have fallen victim to scams do not report it, meaning that figure is likely significantly higher.
And the average amount someone loses as part of these scams is up more than 50% last year to $20,000.
The new center will try to combat this by using “advanced technology” to share information about these scams with the relevant players to help detect and disrupt them.
“We encourage Australians to report it,” Jones told media on Monday.
“If you think you’ve been scammed, report it because if they’ve attacked you, they’re probably going to attack someone else.
“The whole idea of our National Anti-Scam Center is about patting the head, trying to act quickly and decisively before the evil spreads through the community.”
The center will be launched in early July this year and the ability to share data will be rolled out over the next three years.
ACS CEO Chris Vein welcomed the move and said he was pleased that the federal government has acknowledged this issue.
“The costs borne by Australians falling victim to these tricks were the reason why ACS proposed a $100 million initiative to fight online scams and it is excellent that the ACCC has been given the powers to work more closely with the industry to do more to get this problem under control,” he said.
“As the organization representing technology professionals, ACS is always concerned when IT is being misused for criminal gain and we strongly support measures that encourage the ethical use of technologies.
The first year of operation will be focused on helping ASIC provide a takedown service for scam websites and ACMA in its work to combat telecom scams.
The center will also raise community awareness on how to avoid scams and will try to actively suppress certain types of cons, Jones said.
“We’re also going to set up fusion cells, which are like a main team, where we’re tackling certain types of scams and fighting the scammers, to make sure they don’t get an equal opportunity. ,” he said.
ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said most of the funding will be used to establish formal information sharing with relevant stakeholders.
“We will use this funding to build the technology needed to support high-frequency data sharing with a range of agencies, law enforcement and the private sector, with the mission of making Australia a harder target for scammers,” said Lowe .
“The center will bring together the expertise and resources to disrupt scammers connecting with Australians, raise consumer awareness on how to avoid scams and link scam victims to services where they have lost money or their identity has been compromised.
“By sharing more scam reports and other initiatives, the center will help financial, telecommunications and digital platform industries take faster and more effective steps to stop scammers.”
The anti-scam center was first announced by Labor during the 2022 election campaign. After winning the election, the Labor government allocated $9.9 million in last year’s October budget for initial work and the establishment of the Centre.
Last week’s budget gave the National Anti-Scam Center almost another $50 million over four years.
The center was part of an $86.5 million budget package targeting scams.
This also included $10 million over four years for ACMA to SMS registration aimed at helping telecommunication companies to block scam text messages impersonating official bodies or organizations.