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HK fights SMS scams with sender registrations

Hong Kong's Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) will launch an "SMS Sender Registration Scheme" on Thursday to fight fraudulent text messages.

Gigi Onag

December 26, 2023

2 Min Read
Hong Kong city landscape
Hong Kong's telecom operators will be the first to adopt the new SMS Sender Registration Scheme in a bid to stop fraudulent text messages.

Hong Kong's telecom regulator, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA), is set to launch the SMS Sender Registration Scheme on Thursday, December 28, to combat fraudulent messages and scams by helping consumers verify the identity of senders.

The OFCA said senders will use registered SMS IDs with the prefix "#" to send text messages to local subscribers of mobile services. The scheme will be first adopted by the telecoms sector, with 23 major mobile operators already signed up to participate.

"The scheme aims at helping members of the public identify registered SMS senders to stop fraudsters from sending scam SMS messages masquerading as other companies or organizations," said an OFCA spokesperson in a statement.

He added that telecom operators in Hong Kong will block messages containing the prefix "#" but not sent by registered senders.

However, the scheme does not cover text messages sent through mobile apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, which are not controlled by the telecom sector.

Mobile subscribers are not required to apply for the service, install any mobile apps or change their handset settings.

A four-month transition period

The Hong Kong telecom regulator gives a four-month transition period before the scheme goes into full operation to give operators time to tweak their SMS sending platforms. During this period, OFCA expects some technical problems that may prevent people from receiving #-prefixed messages sent by registered operators.

The OFCA will closely monitor the implementation of the scheme and will discuss with other government departments to encourage more sectors that use SMS to communicate with customers to participate in the scheme.

The banking industry is expected to join in the first quarter of next year.

Meanwhile, Francis Fong, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said that allowing telecom service providers to be the first to register enables the authorities to assess the effectiveness of the scheme. The majority of scammers in the city usually pose as telecom operators when sending fraudulent text messages.

"Since the majority of the [legitimate] SMS are sent by the operators, I think it is a very good test platform. So, the operators test how effective this system will be, and then it will spread into the banking sector or the government bodies," Fong told local media.

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About the Author(s)

Gigi Onag

Senior Editor, APAC, Light Reading

Gigi Onag is Senior Editor, APAC, Light Reading. She has been a technology journalist for more than 15 years, covering various aspects of enterprise IT across Asia Pacific.

She started with regional IT publications under CMP Asia (now Informa), including Asia Computer Weekly, Intelligent Enterprise Asia and Network Computing Asia and Teledotcom Asia. This was followed by stints with Computerworld Hong Kong and sister publications FutureIoT and FutureCIO. She had contributed articles to South China Morning Post, TechTarget and PC Market among others.

She interspersed her career as a technology editor with a brief sojourn into public relations before returning to journalism joining the editorial team of Mix Magazine, a MICE publication and its sister publication Business Traveller Asia Pacific.

Gigi is based in Hong Kong and is keen to delve deeper into the region’s wide wild world of telecoms.

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