The government must balance regulation with the growth of MSMEs and barriers to entry into the e-commerce space
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 are still hitting millions of mobile phone service subscribers with increasingly creative modus operandi of their cons. Everyone I know including myself receive a daily dose of text messages enticing you with all sorts of click baits that expose you to all sorts of risks.
The enactment of the SIM Registration Act was primarily aimed at mitigating the prevalence of crimes perpetrated via text messages.
This legislation was particularly targeted at the widespread issue of spam and scam texts that were rampant during the time the bill was under consideration in Congress.
During a recent Senate inquiry, the author and sponsor of the law, Sen. Grace Poe, expressed her disappointment of continuing scams and called on regulators and law enforcers to exert more efforts. She also bought up the possibility of an inside job with telco providers in skirting what were supposed to be effective regulations to stop all these scammers.
One of the problems Senator Poe pointed out is the “hassle” or how hard it is for mobile phone users to report a scam message particularly a requirement to submit scanned images of two valid IDs – many Filipinos do not even have one ID.
I tried going to NTC’s webpage and saw that if you have basic internet skills and know how to scan the images your IDs and the actual text spam and/or scam with your cellphone number, write the “required” summary, and have the good internet connection to upload, it may take a good 30 minutes of your time that you should be willing to commit.
I think many will give up on the part where you would need to write the summary of the scam.
Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sherwin Gatchalian also expressed their dismay on the persisting prevalence of cyber scams and emphatically urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to devise more robust safeguards to halt the exploitation of SIM cards for cyber-scamming activities particularly among Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos).
According to reports, raids on Pogo hubs captured about 107,000 preregistered and unregistered SIM cards being used for “text” and “love” scam operations.
For those unfamiliar, “Love scam” operations victimize their targets by tricking them into believing that they are having a real romantic relationship and will eventually be exploited for financial gain. Love scammers prowl social media and dating apps for the right profile then will develop the online relationship.
At some time, there will be a sad story or some kind of emergency to dupe victims into giving money.
Senator Poe exclaimed that, “If the scammers have become creative, we (in government) should be more creative. While we do not discount the warnings and notices sent by the agencies and telcos to the public, we must go above and beyond if we are to combat this plague in our telecom system.”
It’s quite possible these cyber scammers have stepped up their communications with the hired help of experts in the sociocultural psychology of Filipino consumers.
It’s sometimes amusing how creative their messaging has become.
Being highly skilled techies who have gone to the dark side of the digital world, these cybercrime actors are able to stay ahead of government regulators and law enforcement who must function within the legal parameters and inflexibility of their mandate and limited resources.
This is a handicap that cannot keep up with the pace and nimble nature of the digital environment that cybercrime syndicates will aggressively exploit.
Already at an advantage as masters of digital technology they have creatively criminal minds.
The reports on how pictures of monkeys and fake IDs are being used to register SIM cards is an embarrassing example of how cybercriminals will think and do anything because the profitability is there.
In a statement, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center Undersecretary Alexander Ramos said there are foreign cybercrime groups initiating these scams with some able to buy pre-registered SIM cards.
He said scammers are able to fool their targets that they are banks or e-payment platforms pushing fraudulent financial schemes.
The CICC has announced its free hotline 1326 to report suspicious calls or texts.
It is important to be aware and cautious of these scams.
Each of us, being targets, must take necessary precautions to protect ourselves.
Our first defense is really how we can adopt a trust no one attitude especially when you receive these texts or calls from numbers not in your contacts list.
Ignoring or even blocking will not really help because scammers will just go to the next number in their list.
This will be an ongoing battle that will need the help of experts of the digital and telco industry helping our regulators and law enforcers execute an aggressive digital war against online scam operators, both within and outside our borders, and engaging and extensive campaign that will instill to all mobile phone and internet users how to safely and responsibly use connectivity devices against cybercrime.