Telstra CEO Says They Blocked 2.9mn Scam Calls in July

Andrew Penn (pictured), CEO of Australian telco Telstra, highlighted wangiri as a major issue affecting customers in a recent LinkedIn post.

Another emerging challenge is an exponential increase in the number of scams targeting Australian consumers. In many ways they are like whack-a-mole – you thwart one scam and another one pops up.

This is no game though – they usually involve a customer getting a call from an overseas country that dials once and hangs up. If the customer calls back they are unwittingly dialling a premium number and will incur significant call costs – and the profits go direct to the scammers and this year they are expected to net more than $500 million from unwary Australian consumers.

There is nothing isolated about these scams either – in July alone we blocked 2.9 million scam calls! And yet still they come.

It is obvious that Penn is referring to wangiri even though he did not use the word. Phone users around the world have learned the meaning of ‘wangiri’ as regulators and newspapers keep issuing warning after warning after warning. All of this corroborates Penn’s claim that there has been an ‘exponential’ increase in wangiri. Telstra’s blocking of almost 3mn wangiri calls during July appears relatively modest compared to Telia recently announcing that they block 1mn wangiri calls every week.

Penn went on to call for greater cooperation to reduce scams, but was hazy about the specifics.

This is an industry-wide issue of broad community concern and we need industry, government and regulators to work together to address it.

A comment from Telstra CTO Saeed Tasbihsazan suggested that Telstra should research the use of machine learning to further increase the number of wangiri calls blocked. However, an algorithm to analyze data is always limited by the data that is made available. That is why Telstra and other telcos should demonstrate their willingness to work together by joining the RAG Wangiri Blockchain Consortium which uses innovative technology to pool wangiri data at zero cost.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.