A new anti-scam centre should help prevent the billions Australians are losing to scammers every year. 

In an effort to combat the rising menace of scams, the Australian government has allocated over $86 million from the recent federal budget to establish the National Anti-Scams Centre (NASC) by July. 

With an estimated over $3 billion lost to scammers in Australia last year, the government is taking action to protect people from fraudulent activities.

Led by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the NASC will form strategic partnerships with various government agencies, banks, telco companies, and online platforms, pooling resources to prevent scams and safeguard customers. 

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones has emphasised the importance of information sharing among these partners.

“We're going in there, we'll be doing disruption activity to ensure [the scammers'] job of stealing money from Australians is going to be harder and harder and harder,” he said. 

The NASC's primary objective is to intercept scams before any financial losses occur. 

Mr Jones highlighted the urgency in notifying banks, small business organisations, and law enforcement promptly if a scam targeting small businesses is reported, stressing the need for swift action.

ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe has expressed enthusiasm for the government's commitment to establishing the NASC and welcomed the $58 million funding allocated to the ACCC to facilitate the centre's setup over the next two years. 

Lowe says that the NASC's mission is to make Australia a more challenging target for scammers by leveraging high-frequency data sharing and collaborative efforts with law enforcement and the private sector.

The NASC, which will be gradually implemented from July 1, 2023, will also develop cells to tackle specific types of scams. 

These specialised units, akin to hit squads, will coordinate joint efforts between government and private entities to combat scam activities head-on. 

Lowe says that enhanced coordination and focus would help identify and target anti-scam activities, leading to a reduction in losses caused by scams.

The NASC's operations will commence by closely collaborating with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to provide scam website takedown services, while also supporting the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in its ongoing efforts to combat telecommunications scams. 

Lowe welcomed the government's commitment to introducing an SMS Sender ID register, similar to Singapore's, as it will aid in disrupting impersonation scams and empower consumers to discern whether a text message is from a trusted source.

While progress is being made in the fight against scams, the ACCC has stressed the importance of establishing effective cross-industry standards to ensure scammers cannot exploit vulnerabilities. 

Feedback received by the ACCC since the receipt of seed funding in October 2022 indicates a strong consensus on the need for increased coordination between government agencies, finance and telecommunications sectors, and digital platforms to effectively combat scams.

The NASC's $58 million funding allocation will be primarily utilised for technological development, enabling the centre to receive and distribute scam reports to relevant institutions swiftly. 

The NASC aims to analyse the data received, identify trends, and take immediate action to disrupt scams while educating Australians about the evolving tactics employed by scammers. 

An additional $14 million will be dedicated to resourcing fusion cells, conducting education and communication activities in collaboration with the private sector, and supporting ongoing data analysis, intelligence gathering, and disruption efforts.