Telecommunications companies must detect, trace and block spam calls under new rules to prevent more Australia’s falling victim to criminals.

Consumer watchdog data estimates Australians have lost $35.6 million to scam calls so far this year, with such calls accounting for close to half of all reported scams.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s new rules put more responsibility on telcos to stop spammers, with fines of up to $250,000 if the code is breached.

ACMA’s Fiona Cameron says the code will help make it harder for Australians to be targeted.

“There is no silver bullet to reduce scams, but these new rules place clear obligations on industry to do more to protect their customers and build confidence that it’s safe to answer a ringing phone,” she said on Wednesday.

“The end game is to stop scammers in their tracks wherever possible and the ACMA will enforce this code to make sure telcos are meeting their obligations to their customers.”

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says the code will work alongside another measure to stop fraudulent use of mobile numbers.

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“The Morrison government is serious about tackling scam calls,” he said.

Australians have mainly been targeted by scam calls where fraudsters pretend to be from the tax office, as well as a scheme aimed to make people call back an international number spending big in the process.

More than 30 million scam calls have been blocked by telcos over the past year.

AAP