It could become tougher to transfer your mobile number to another telco, thanks to new changes intended to fight fraud

James Hennessy
  • New changes announced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would require telcos to introduce stronger identity verification measures before phone numbers can be transferred to another carrier.
  • The changes are intended to fight phone-based frauds and scams.
  • A 2019 report from the telecommunications ombudsman found mobile phone fraud – where fraudsters transfer a phone number to a SIM they control by impersonating the owner of the number – was on the rise.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

New changes announced today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to fight mobile phone fraud would make it tougher to transfer a mobile number to another carrier, by requiring telcos to add an additional identity verification step into the process.

The new Telecommunications (Mobile Number Pre-porting Additional Identify Verification) Industry Standard 2020, announced today by ACMA, mandates a tougher identification process during any transfer of a mobile number to another SIM card.

“The process will now require multifactor authentication, where a consumer must respond to the telco to confirm they have authorised the transfer,” ACMA Authority member Fiona Cameron said in a statement.

“Mobile number fraud can be devastating. Victims in Australia lose on average more than ten thousand dollars. Mobile phones contain a lot of personal information so once a scammer has control of your number, they can hijack a lot of personal services, like online banking."

Mobile phone fraud happens when a scammer uses a person's personal details to impersonate them on a call with a telco. The scammer will then transfer the person's phone number onto a SIM in the scammer's possession. Once the scammer controls the phone number, they can then use two-factor authentication to access the person's other accounts, like banking.

Under the new regime, the telco would have to independently contact the original phone number holder to ensure it is actually them asking for the transfer.

In a statement provided to Business Insider Australia, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman welcomed the changes, referring to the recent work it has done on mobile phone fraud.

“We are pleased to see our systemic investigation work informing this regulatory action. The telecommunications industry has worked hard over the last year to address the security risks associated with mobile number theft," said Ombudsman Judi Jones.

“When fraud happens the impact on consumers is significant. It is important identity verification procedures keep up with evolving technological risks and strike the right balance between accessibility and security. The ACMA’s new Standard is a welcome layer of consumer protection to combat telco fraud.”

In a 2019 report, the Ombudsman said more and more customers were reporting "serious consequences" as a result of falling victim to such scams.