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Cyber security

CommBank and Telstra team up to tackle phone scams

- March 28, 2023 2 MIN READ
Phone scam
Photo: AdobeStock
The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and Telstra have launched a pilot program to see if they can improve protection from phone scams, via an API.

They’ve call the Telstra API Scam Indicator. It’s currently at proof-of-concept stage and to be piloted over the next few months. Early simulation results suggest it can help detect and prevent scams, which currently cost CBA customers, and the bank itself, $15-20 million annually.

The API enables CBA to check if a customer is on a phone call during a transaction – a prime indicator a scam is underway –  and try to contact the customer or put additional checks in place. To ensure privacy, the bank is only able to access specific data points relating to scam prevention and does not have access to any other customer data.

Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) chief ombudsman David Locke welcomed the collaboration saying their last financial year they received around 11 complaints a day – 4,131 complaints in total – about scams, a 28% increase on the previous year. Already this year that figure is up more than 20%.

“The widespread and sophisticated nature of scams means the industry needs to be willing to invest in new technology and have the ability to respond quickly,” he said.

“We continue to see large increases in the number and size of scams coming to AFCA – a sign that more needs to be done. We urge all banks and telcos to contribute to this important work.

Telstra CEO Vicki Brady said the telco’s industry leading Cleaner Pipes program, launched nearly 12 months ago to block scam emails, text message and phone calls, stopped nearly 230 million SMS messages between April 2022 and February 2023, as well as an average of 10 million scam or potentially unwanted calls monthly.

She said Scam Indicator is the next step in using AI and data to protect people from scams.

“I’m often asked by people why Telstra can’t do more to protect against phone scams, and this is an example of us doing just that – working innovatively with CBA to put in place measures that will help stop this criminal activity in its tracks,” Brady said.

“Cyber security and addressing the issue of scams is a team effort, and we should be doing all we can to help stem the flow of this criminal activity. Part of this needs to be organisations working together like this to share knowledge and insights and partnering to develop solutions that can help better protect our customers.”

CommBank has also introduced NameCheck technology for money transfers and new caller verification via the CommBank app..

After further testing to prove its effectiveness, Scam Indicator is expected to be made available by CBA to joint CBA and Telstra customers later this year.

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