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Telcos vow ‘swift action’ vs text scams

/ 05:44 AM November 25, 2021
The proliferation of spam messages came from international syndicates, a National Privacy Commission (NPC) official said on Tuesday, adding that there is no evidence that phone numbers were obtained through contact tracing forms.

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MANILA, Philippines — Telco giants PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom committed to widen cooperation with the government and other private sector partners to combat the rise in text message scams targeting unwitting mobile users.

Following a meeting with the National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Wednesday, PLDT’s Smart Communications said the company was prepared to play an “active role” and take “swift action” in protecting subscribers.

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“We realize the urgency of the need to protect the public from these scammers,” Roy Ibay, regulatory head at Smart, said in a statement. “Having said that, we also believe that we need to balance,” he said, adding that the company would “not want to inadvertently harm legitimate users of our services in pursuit of a handful of unscrupulous individuals.”

During the meeting, which was attended by representatives of regulators, banks and e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, Globe chief information security officer Anton Bonifacio also called for greater “threat intelligence sharing” among private sector stakeholders.

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“At the end of the day, we need to move very swiftly in preventing fraudulent attacks from reaching our customers, and we know we cannot do it alone,” Bonifacio said. “We need to improve private sector partnerships on top of what has already been a robust public sector enablement through the (NPC). Strength in numbers is key.”

Joint effort

Sen. Grace Poe on Wednesday also called on the government to work with the private sector in containing the large-scale, text-based phishing scams preying on the mobile phone-dependent public.

The chair of the Senate public services committee said the sudden influx of text scams had opened “the fraud floodgates” amid the pandemic.

She said the government should continuously beef up mechanisms, such as existing hotlines, through which the people could report spam texts and other such scams and get immediate help.

Last Nov. 19, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) directed all telecommunications providers to issue a text blast to subscribers warning them against divulging personal information to anonymous senders.

The text blast will read: “BABALA! Huwag maniwala sa text na diumanoý nag-aalok ng trabaho. Huwag po magbigay ng personal na impormasyon. Ito po ay isang scam.” (“Don’t believe text messages offering jobs. Don’t give your personal information. This is a scam.”)

NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said in an interview on Wednesday such warnings were effective in curbing cases of text fraud that have cropped up in the past.

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‘Weaponized’ for polls

“Text scams spare no one. Their victims come from poor families who are given false hopes of jobs or goods, or worse, duped into giving away cash in exchange for the false promise of a bigger amount,” Poe said.

At the House, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas filed Resolution No. 2378 urging the Department of Information and Communications Technology, NTC and NPC to conduct a thorough investigation.

“As we enter the campaign period, urgent steps should be taken to ensure that these schemes are not weaponized into tools to spread fake news and disinformation. Our right to suffrage and the integrity of our elections may become casualties if the concerned agencies fail to act.”

—REPORTS FROM MIGUEL R. CAMUS, DJ YAP AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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TAGS: Globe, National Telecommunications Commission, PLDT, Smart, telcos, text scams
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