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Telstra activates filter that can now block scam texts before they reach you

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Telstra has activated a new SMS scam filter which uses technology that can block millions of malicious text messages each day at the network level before they reach a customer’s device.

The scam text filter has already been deployed and rolled out for every Telstra customer automatically.

“Scam text messages are not only annoying, they’re also malicious and have the potential to steal your money or install malware to steal personal information, hack your internet banking and infect your contacts,” says Telstra CEO Andy Penn.

“We know the number of scam text messages on our network is on the rise – in 2021 we had more than 11,000 reports of malicious texts to Android devices compared to 50 reports in 2020.

“That’s why we’ve turned on a brand-new feature to find and block SMS scam messages with suspicious links as they travel across our network and stop many of them before they reach your mobile device.”

An internal pilot programme has been underway for the past three months with two and a half thousand employees taking part.

And it has been successful in detecting and blocking hundreds of scam text messages each day.

The technology has been fine-tuned and has now rolled out to every customer on the Telstra network no matter what plan they are using and whether they are signed up through another provider that uses the Telstra network like Boost Mobile and Belong.

Telstra says the capabilities of the technology have reached a point where it can recognise what a scam text message looks like and block them at the network level.

The technology automatically picks out and scans suspicious content like malicious links and takes into consideration other patterns like the time, the sender, the number of messages being sent and the recipient.

“Telstra takes its privacy obligations seriously,” Penn says.

Photo by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash

“We know there’s a fine balance between protecting our customers and ensuring their privacy.

“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.”

But Telstra recognises that the technology isn’t foolproof and that criminals will continually look for new ways to run their scams.

For most customers this new filter will be a welcome addition to their Telstra service.

But if you do not want your SMS messages being filtered and blocked you can also opt out of the service by sending an SMS to 0438 214 682 with the words FILTER OFF.

And if a customer has a change of heart, they can always turn it back on by sending a message to the same number – 0438 214 682 – with FILTER ON.