The government will set up an SMS registry to help telcos block scam text messages that attempt to impersonate official agencies or organisations.

The federal government will be providing $10 million over four years to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to establish and maintain the SMS sender ID registry, as part of next month’s budget.

The registry will help telecommunications companies in identifying and blocking scammers who are attempting to impersonate trusted brands, such as myGov or Linkt.

“The Albanese government is committed to doing what it can to disrupt illegal text message scams and better protect Australians,” Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said.

“With more and more Australians reporting scam text messages, the Albanese government is taking strong action by funding the regulator to establish a new SMS sender ID registry to support telcos in stopping scammers from imitating trusted brands.

“We will reap the practical benefits that will be delivered by the implementation of the SMS sender ID registry. I look forward to working across government portfolios in our shared missions to combat scammers.”

Telco companies already blocked more than 90 million scam texts between July and December last year.

Nearly half of all Australians have been scammed or received a fake text message in the last year. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Scamwatch report, Australians lost a combined $3.1 billion from scams last year, up 80 per cent from 2021. The average amount Australians are losing from these scams is now $20,000, a 54 per cent increase from the previous year.

The report also showed that text messages are now the leading contact method for scammers in 2022, representing a third of all scams. Reports about scam text messages jumped by nearly 20 per cent in 2022, with 80,000 reported. But nearly a third of all victims do not report being scammed, so these figures are likely far higher.

“Everyday, scammers are ripping money out the pockets of hard-working Australians,” Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said.

“The government is fighting back. With the establishment of the National Anti-Scams Centre and initiatives like SMS sender ID Registry, we are driving home a clear message: the government is putting scammers on notice.

“The registry will not only make it tougher for scammers to imitate trusted brands through SMS, it will be crucial in disrupting a key channel scammers use to target victims.”

The register will allow legitimate brands to register their sender ID, allowing telcos to block scammers who are then trying to send messages appearing to come from that organisation.

There will be a phased introduction of the registry, before an industry-wide model is in place, which will be subject to rule-making, industry readiness, and security arrangements.

SMS scams have been rife in recent years, with common scams including messages purporting to be coming from toll company Linkt trying to trick people into giving up their credit card information. Australians have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to this scam alone.

Following the release of the latest ACCC scams report, the Consumer Action Law Centre urged the government to require banks to reimburse customers who have fallen victim to a scam.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, two-thirds of Australians aged 15 or higher were exposed to a scam in the 2021-22 financial year.