The Telecommunications Forum (TCF) co-ordinates the telecommunications industry to work together with other agencies to combat scams. Below are the current projects and prevention measures in place to help New Zealander’s stay safe from phone scams.
TCF Scam Calling Prevention Code / Scam Call Prevention Working Party
To help assist blocking of scam callers, the TCF created the Scam Call Prevention Code in August 2018. The Code formalised a process among the telecommunications providers to notify each other of scam call incidents so they can be blocked across all New Zealand networks.
The Code has enabled better collaboration and communication between providers, banks and government agencies to identify scam calls quickly and successfully block them. Since 2018, the following agencies have signed up to the code:
- CERT NZ
- Commission of Financial Capability (CFFC)
- Department of Internal Affairs (DIA)
- Financial Markets Authority (FMA)
- Inland Revenue Department (IRD)
Consumers are able to report scam phone calls directly to their Service Provider or to any of the agencies above, who will then forward the scam call information to the telecommunications providers for blocking.
Having a number of organisations on board with the scam call prevention process means that no matter who the scam call was reported to, the phone number will be able to be blocked across the entire New Zealand network.
The Scam Call Prevention Working Party meets quarterly to monitor the Code and developments in scam call prevention technology as well as to extend cooperation regarding scam call processes to agencies outside of the telecommunications industry to improve outcomes for consumers.
Number Porting Fraud Prevention
Number porting fraud is relatively new and uncommon in New Zealand, but when it does happen it can have a devastating impact on the victim.
A fraudster obtains personal information about the victim, such as their name, mobile number and account details, often gained from hacking into an individual’s email account. The fraudster then requests to have the victim’s mobile number transferred to the fraudster’s SIM card on a new provider. If successful in porting the victim’s number to their own SIM card, the fraudster will receive all the voice calls and text messages intended for the victim.
Typically, this occurs after a fraudster has managed to gain access to a customer’s bank account – either by hacking or illegally obtaining the customer’s banking password.
Armed with this information, the fraudster can then take advantage of a security process called ‘two-factor authentication’ which is where a service, like online banking, uses SMS to send a unique code that the customer needs to provide when logging in or when confirming a banking transaction. This means the fraudster can request a funds transfer from the victim’s bank account and can use the SMS code to confirm the transfer.
Since the discovery of Number Porting Fraud in New Zealand, mobile phone service providers have been working together to put in place a number of preventative measures:
Verification of ID
Mobile phone service providers have tightened up on the requirements for customers to verify their identification when requesting Number Porting. This includes providers who have physical stores requiring customers to visit a store and show their identification before they can port their mobile number. We appreciate this may represent an inconvenience for customers who are legitimately porting a number, but this is a small price to pay to keep customers safe from fraudsters.
SMS Text message alert
From 3 June 2021, consumers will receive an SMS text message advising that their number is being ported:
We’re processing a request to move your mobile number to another provider. If you DID NOT request this, please contact your mobile provider and bank IMMEDIATELY as an unauthorised mobile transfer may leave you vulnerable to serious fraud. Do not reply to this text.
SMS Text Full Solution
A more advanced SMS text solution is under development and is is being rolled out progressively by mobile phone providers during the second half of 2021. This will involve a SMS text message from the mobile phone provider in which the consumer will be asked specific permission for the number to be ported. The consumer will need to reply with a YES to allow the number porting process to occur. If the consumer does not reply the number will not be ported.