What is an “SMS Scam Filter” and how does it work?

CommsMobile has implemented scam SMS blocking technology across their mobile network, following Telstra's lead. As Belong uses portions of the Telstra mobile network, this technology will also be applicable to users of our mobile plans. Here's what you should be aware of.

How does the SMS Scam Filter of CommsMobile work?

This new capability is designed to detect and prevent SMS scam messages with suspicious links from reaching our customers' mobile phones as they travel across our network. It's an additional tool in our ongoing efforts to combat SMS scams and builds upon Telstra's Cleaner Pipes initiative, where we have already blocked over 100 million scam calls in the past year, setting an industry-leading standard.

In simple terms, the SMS Scam Filter uses automated machine scanning to analyse the content of messages traveling on our network, looking for suspicious patterns and characteristics, as well as examining other data such as time, sender, number of messages sent, and recipient. If a message appears suspicious, it is automatically blocked for our customers. However, to avoid mistakenly blocking legitimate messages, the new message format may be reviewed by our specialists to confirm if it's a scam, while keeping the details of the recipient masked.

Any suspicious SMS messages that are identified as scams are reviewed by our specialists, who confirm the recipient's details while keeping them masked. If a scam is confirmed, the technology will block future messages that meet the same criteria or closely resemble the identified scam. It's important to note that while this capability is a valuable tool, it's not foolproof, as scammers are constantly evolving and finding new methods to attempt to scam Australians. For example, they may try to change the characteristics of an SMS with a suspicious link to avoid being blocked.

Therefore, it's crucial for recipients to remain vigilant and exercise caution when receiving unexpected messages, avoiding clicking on links unless they can verify their authenticity.

Can I expect CommsMobile to block a message that I want to receive?

While the scam filter's accuracy cannot be guaranteed at 100%, there is a slight possibility that a legitimate message may not be delivered. Since the pilot for SMS blocking began in 2021, Telstra has not received any substantiated complaints regarding this issue.

Could high-volume messages be mistaken for scams?

Legitimate commercial messaging sources on Telstra's network are excluded from blocking. This means that SMS sent by banks and other businesses, government departments, Emergency Alerts, and Telstra applications like MessageBank aren’t scanned and won’t be blocked.

Some scammers use our handset plans to send high volumes of traffic in breach of our Acceptable Use Policy. Messages sent from a service on a mobile plan will be scanned and may be considered potential scam.

If a Business sending many legitimate messages has evidence that they are not being delivered, they should report a fault as normal. Our fault teams are equipped to assist.

Did we develop it in-house or did we utilise a commercial product?

The technology employed for this solution is sourced from one of Telstra's dedicated telecommunications vendors, and it is managed by Telstra personnel based in Australia.

How can I disable the SMS scam blocking feature?

When enabled, the SMS scam filter will automatically block numerous malicious SMS messages sent to CommsMobile customers. While most customers will find this feature beneficial, those who wish to opt out can contact us. Initially, this technology will be activated for all CommsMobile customers across the mobile network. To request opting out, please reach out to us.

It won't stop all scam messages, right? If so, how can customers report scams that slip through?

Unsolicited or unwanted commercial messages ("spam") will not be blocked by the CommsMobile scam filter. Legitimate businesses are required to provide an option to stop their marketing, usually by replying STOP. The filter is designed to block SMS messages that attempt to deceive you into clicking on a malicious link.

The scam blocking platform has a proven track record of accurately blocking scam messages for other mobile operators. Messages will only be blocked if they are verified to be part of a scam campaign, based on agreed criteria and with the support of our cyber and scam experts.

If you receive a message that you suspect is a scam, please report it to us.

Is human intervention involved, or is it entirely AI-driven? 

The technology involves a level of manual review, where a small team at CommsMobile examines a sample of suspected scam messages along with their hyperlinks. The recipient's data is removed to protect their privacy before the suspicious content is reviewed manually. If the team identifies a message as a scam, the technology will block similar messages in the future, unless the recipient has opted out. This manual confirmation process helps minimize the risk of legitimate messages being blocked. Furthermore, the platform is exclusively dedicated to its intended purpose and is secured to the same high standards as the rest of our network, with restricted and logged access.

I'm concerned about my privacy, what else is CommsMobile monitoring in the background under the guise of "security"?

We take our obligations very seriously and we operate in accordance with all legislation. The SMS scam filter system is designed and operated exclusively for blocking scam messages. It cannot be used to monitor any individual or conversation topics.

Access to the platform is restricted to specialist Telstra staff in Australia who will review an anonymised sample of a suspected scam message to verify whether it is part of a scam or cybercrime campaign without viewing recipient identity. All access is strictly restricted, logged, and monitored. Access is reviewed on a regular basis.

The platform has undergone security penetration testing to ensure it is not accessible to external or internal hacking and abuse. It is built and maintained according to cyber security best practices, as we remain committed to maintaining the privacy of our customers.

Can this system be used with other messaging apps such as WhatsApp, or is it limited to SMS only?

The scam filter for SMS can only be applied to SMS messages on services using the CommsMobile network. It will not work with "over-the-top" messaging applications like iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or end-to-end encrypted services.If you receive a scam via any of these applications, please report it to the service provider.

Will you be filtering out unsolicited political messages on CommsMobile?

Entities such as politicians, charities, and religious organisations are exempt from the Spam Act and will not be blocked on this platform.

Will my SMS messages and associated metadata be stored in Australia by CommsMobile?

Yes, your communications, including SMS messages and their metadata, will continue to be stored in Australia on Telstra infrastructure. There have been no changes. Our privacy statement, which also applies to your CommsMobile usage, can be found in our privacy statement for further details.

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