“Consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines… has urged the 19th Congress to refile and immediately pass a new version of the SIM Card Registration Act and for the President to certify this as urgent”
If you have been receiving text messages offering all sorts of high paying job opportunities, you’re being targeted by online scammers.
I for one have been receiving all sorts of hard selling text messages for work-from-home jobs, product promotions, lotteries I never joined, and other spurious schemes from unidentified senders.
The National Telecommunications Commission, National Privacy Commission and the telcos have issued public warnings and their own texting campaign to warn consumers of this “smishing” wave, a variant of phishing using the short message platforms to fool mobile phone users to share personal information that would then be used to commit fraud.
Victims will be given links to legitimate looking but fake websites that will harvest their sensitive data, introduce mobile malware, and further expose to other fraudulent schemes.
Investigations by the NPC found that a global crime syndicate is behind all these scams using sophisticated technology attacking not just the Philippines but other countries as well and that these cybercriminals have somehow accessed data from all those contact tracing forms that we all have been filling up these past 2 pandemic years.
In a recent statement, Globe telecom reported the deactivation of 5,670 spam numbers and has so far blocked about 71 million messages since the start of this year.
This shows how big this cybercrime operation is and the exposure of everyone who has ever accomplished a contract tracing form.
Now we know how they got a hold of our mobile number, but when we get these irritating messages from scammers, we have no way of knowing who they are or where the call is coming from.
This mask of anonymity is the key advantage of these SMS scammers.
There is, however, the proposed Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act, a policy reform initiative that was ratified by both Houses of congress but was vetoed by former President Rodrigo Duterte. This law would have shattered the shield of anonymity of cybercriminals.
The reasons, to quote then spokesperson Martin Andanar, were that the former President was “constrained to disagree with the inclusion of social media in the measure, without providing proper guidelines and definitions” and that this provision “may give rise to a situation of dangerous state intrusion and surveillance threatening many constitutionally protected rights.”
Oh, really now. The Senate and the House of Representatives would have seen any constitutional violation and these concerns on guidelines could be addressed in the Implementing Rules and Regulations.
The objective was to stop all these scams victimizing our people.
The veto gives scammers more time to go on with their smishing operations and also for the troll army operations spreading disinformation in social media to stay in business which to me is an equally important benefit of the SIM Registration bill.
Consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines in a published statement last week has urged the 19th Congress to refile and immediately pass a new version of the SIM Card Registration Act and for the President to certify this as urgent.
According to CitizenWatch co-convenor Atty. Tim Abejo, “Registration of SIM cards will protect consumers from cyber-goons and criminals operating scams, unsolicited, indecent or obscene messages, bank fraud, libel, anonymous online defamation, trolling, terrorism, and the spread of digital disinformation or fake news.”
The rationale is quite simple, as a merchant or a consumer, when doing any transaction there must be trust and purity.
Both parties must be clear on what the deal is and, most important, knowing the identity and reputation of who we are doing business with.
Financial institutions call it “Know you customer” or KYC. Uncertainty in any of these is a red flag and calls for more scrutiny.
The proposed SIM Registration Law aims to enforce the registration of each SIM card to verify the identity of each user and be liable for actions using their account.
This would be an effective deterrent against cybercrime perpetrators and has the full support of the telcos who are ready to share their expertise and be on the front line to keep our online spaces safe.
But legislation is needed to grant them authority to require SIM registration.
It is commendable that our telcos are strong proponents of a policy that would shave off some revenue from the operations of these syndicates.
These hard times and the trusting nature, or the carelessness of Filipino consumers online have created an easy hunting ground for cybercriminals especially now that we depend on our mobile phones as the primary conduit for communications and almost all our daily transactions.
We need the SIM Registration Law to plug this vulnerability and to fight these waves of cybercrime now invading the privacy of our sensitive personal data.