CONSUMER advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines urged the government and the country’s telecom players to form a united front against online scammers who continue to victimize Filipinos pursuing several activities using the internet and social media.
“The government and the telco industry can join forces in launching a systemic counterattack against this cyberscam ecosystem while the public is constantly warned and educated on how to act against text scams,” said former legislator Chirstopher Belmonte, co-convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines, in a statement issued on Sunday.
In an earlier statement, Undersecretary Alexander Ramos of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) had revealed that foreign cybercrime groups are at the helm of these scams, with some even procuring pre-registered SIM cards. The CICC activated its free hotline 1326 to report suspicious calls or texts.
Moreover, telcos warned that online scammers are now using over-the-top (OTT) messaging and SIM cards issued by international telecom providers as a way to circumvent the law.
“Reports on 107,000 SIM cards captured in Pogo hubs that were being used for ‘text’ and ‘love’ scam operations show that there are criminal syndicates behind these text scamming operations,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte also called upon all mobile phone users to join the fight against text scammers and warned of serious repercussions in selling their registered SIM cards.
“Despite the implementation of the SIM [subscriber identity module] Card Registration Law and the expiration of the extended deadline to register all SIM card users, text scammers continue to target millions of mobile phone users, employing increasingly creative and deceptive tactics in their fraudulent schemes,” he said.
Belmonte added that the scammers have become more sophisticated, pointing out that they have also capitalized on the weak social engineering practices of a lot of Filipinos. “These scammers have mastered the art of deception and have even applied Filipino social nuances to convincingly impersonate banks or e-payment platforms to propagate their fraudulent financial schemes. This alarming revelation underscores the audacity and sophistication of these illicit operations.”
The National Telecommunications Commission recently issued Memorandum Order No. 010-09-20231. This sets stringent guidelines for the validation of SIM registrations, including the verification of IDs and details provided by SIM users. This was in response to test submissions from government authorities, which revealed that fraudulent IDs and details could bypass the SIM registration platforms of telecommunications companies.
The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has warned the public that the sale of their registered SIM cards is not just unethical, but outright illegal. The NPC cautioned that those found guilty of this offense will face the full force of the law, with severe penalties awaiting them.
Persons found violating this act may be subject to fines of P100,000 to P300,000 and/or imprisonment ranging from six months to six years.
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