Friday, June 21, 2024

NPC, NTC asked to stop ‘budol SMS scams’ that offer shady jobs

Re-electionist senator Villanueva asked the National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Monday, Nov. 22, to look into the “epidemic of ‘text scams'”, particularly the kind in which cell phone numbers are barraged with job ads or offers.

An anti-SMS spam advisory of Globe Telecom

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, described the apparent “robo texts being blasted” to be the “forbidden fruit of a data breach or data sale somewhere.”

He said social media has been flooded with complaints of citizens who have been bombarded with job offers or sales work that promises huge commissions.

“This is the new budol in town,” Villanueva said in a statement.

He called on the NPC to coordinate with the National Telecommunications Commission “on how this illegal and irritating intrusion into one’s privacy can be stopped.”

He described these “robo texts” as a variant of fake news, “which many people can fall for.”

“In a nation where unemployment and digital disinformation are high, these kinds of messages can mislead many. Maraming kababayan po natin, lalo na ang mga naghahanap ng trabaho ang ma-si-swindle nito,” he said.

Villanueva asked government agencies and telecommunications firms to work together in preventing citizens from being victimized by “smishing,” a form of text message phishing, where criminals lure consumers into giving away personal or financial information.

Nasa area pa rin po ito ng consumer protection na trabaho ng gobyerno,” he said.

He said text offers on overseas jobs violate laws in labor placement, an activity that is tightly regulated by the government to shield job seekers from being victimized by illegal recruiters.

The NPC, for its part, said it is looking at SMS spam reports but the agency clarified that there is no sufficient information, at this time, to attribute or link the growing concerns on unsolicited SMS to breach of contact tracing forms or apps.

“We are also conducting privacy sweeps to check the compliance [of organizations] to DPA (Data Privacy Act) requirements,” said Roren Chin, chief of the public information and assistance division of the NPC.

Local telco Globe Telecom, on the other hand, said it continues to heighten its anti-spam and anti-scam campaign through a dedicated cybersecurity team that has deactivated 5,670 confirmed spam numbers, and successfully blocked close to 71 million spam messages in this year alone.

The company said the specialized teams are part of a larger internal Cybersecurity and Data Privacy group that responds to spam complaints and proactively deals with spammers and scams. Globe terminates and blocks numbers of detected spammers through its systems, including those reported through www.globe.com.ph/stopspam.

“We take unsolicited and fraudulent messages seriously, and protecting Globe customers from these scams remains a top business priority,” said Anton Bonifacio, Globe chief information security officer. 

He added that since the pandemic started, the company has invested an additional $7.25 million in CAPEX solely to continue enhancing anti-spam capabilities in its network.

Globe said it has also partnered with major universal and commercial banks, as well as Lazada and Shopee, to minimize not just spam but also scams and phishing activities; ensuring the protection of customers within the network. These partner companies report fake numbers, spoofed sender names, and websites, which Globe in turn blocks in its network immediately, as they are reported.

Globe stressed that, while it is doing what it can to control spam on the network side, there are also tools available to customers on the “device” side. Customers can use the “Messages” app by Google as their default Android SMS messenger for instance, since the app has highly-effective built-in spam filters similar to how a “Google Mail” user may have built-in spam filters.

“Given the ongoing pandemic, many businesses are struggling to get their products across to consumers. This has contributed to a surge in unsolicited marketing campaigns from digital marketers or spammers, who use existing number databases culled from public information or online data,” added Bonifacio.

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