08 November 2021

SUBJECT: Labor’s plan to fight scammers.
MELINDA JAMES, HOST: Have you been scammed recently? I'm sure we've seen a spike in this. In fact, just a little while ago do you remember we were talking about flu bot? So this is these particular scams where the scammers try to get you to click on a link by telling you that you have a parcel waiting for you or something like that, calls to your phone from unknown numbers, but look like a mobile. A lot of people choose to answer them. I think more and more of us are falling prey to this sort of thing. But what can be done about it? Can any more be done about it, or will the scammers always be ahead of us scamers? Stephen Jones is the Member for Whitlam and also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and he has put forward what the opposition's plan would be. A new cop on the beat is what Labor is calling it. He joins me now. Stephen Jones, good morning.
JAMES: Right, so what more can be done? I mean are you saying that Federal Police and various financial regulators are not doing enough at the moment?
JONES: There's absolutely more that can be done. We’ve spent the last six months scouring what's going on overseas and where the best practices is. And on the basis of those learnings I think there's a whole bunch we can do to ensure that Australia doesn't continue to be a scammers paradise. It's costing us about $33bn a year. That's a cost on households on families on small businesses. They're having their life savings, their wealth ripped from them by illegal activity. Three things we think can be done almost immediately. Firstly, we set up an Anti-Scam Centre which brings together the existing regulators, including the police. Would also bring together, and this is crucial, representatives from the bank's, the telecommunications providers and the social media platforms. The latter two, critical because they’re the vectors, if you like, for spreading the virus. It's the telecommunications, whether it's the internet, whether it's mobile phones through SMS and phone calls or there are social media platforms. And the banks, if you like, are the wallet at the end of the scam. So we need to bring them together. We need more cooperation between those centres. We need to be monitoring things in real time, so that when we see things starting to emerge, we jump on it straight away. And whether we're blocking incoming scamming material, whether we're alerting consumers in a much more forward-leaning way or whether we're doing things to chase down the criminals much more can be done in that area. It's also a small-time operators. You would have seen everything from puppy scams to used-car scams and lots more in that area. So a lot can be done there. And then I’m keen on us, obviously the desire is to stop it happening in the first place, but we can't be naive to the fact that a lot of people are going to fall for this. And we need to be able to provide services to assist them. And a big gap is in when people have their identity stolen. So, we've got to be able to look for ways to, and provide services, to ensure that people can repair their ID recover and recuperate so that they don't get a secondary scam. And that often happens. If you get your ID stolen it can be sold on an international list and you can get fall prey to another scam. So we've got to ensure that there's a smooth process for that occur in as well. So, there’s three things that can be done overnight and we should be doing it.
JAMES: Is there evidence to suggest that we, as Australians, do fall victim to this more often because of a weaker policing, regulatory system here?
JONES: Yeah, we ranked number five in the world as a target for international scammers. There's a bunch of reasons for that. We're very willing uses of telecommunications and internet commerce. By international comparisons, we’re a wealthier country. So that makes you a target and also lacks supervision, lacks law enforcement and laws that really aren't fit for purpose. So, yes, we are a target. And yes, we're above a lot of other countries including in the region. So there is evidence the Government was warned about this at a recent inquiry, a Parliamentary inquiry that was conducted. A set of recommendations were made. They weren't acted on. So there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Australia has fallen behind the world and that Australians are victims as a result of that inaction.
JAMES: How much can Australia actually realistically do from here without cooperation with other countries given that, and this is at least the impression we're given, that a lot of this cyber-crime emanates from overseas rather than Australian-based criminal syndicates. Yeah, a bunch of it does emanate from overseas. But there's also local operatives working here, whether it's the small-scale just scams or local representatives of international criminal outfits.  And, you know, we can do much more on this. I mean, we spend billions of dollars a year on drug smuggling. we spend billions of dollars a year on people smuggling. We've spent billions of dollars a year on a whole bunch of internationally-originating crime. Why is it that scams are seen as a different case? So I want to see the Government lifting its game in this area. And just saying, because it's coming from another country is not an excuse when we've got $33bn a year lost from families from businesses, mostly small businesses. We can do so much more in this.