Monday, May 27, 2024

Telcos collaborating with gov’t agencies to ‘hunt down’ text scammers

Mobile operators Globe Telecom and Smart Communications said they are closely coordinating with various government agencies to apprehend the people behind the text scams proliferating lately.

Photo shows officials of Smart Communications and CICC led by Smart chief information security officer Angel Redoble (4th from left) CICC executive director Alexander K. Ramos (4th from right)
Photo from Smart Communications

The two telcos said in a statement that they have been closely working with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group, the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Council (CICC) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the National Bureau of Investigation, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the National Privacy Commission (NPC).

Smart said it is ready to provide relevant information to the PNP and CICC to hunt down the culprits behind the text scams.

“We are supporting government-led efforts to identify the scammers and to pin down where they’re getting the SIMs that they’re using to run their modus,” said Angel Redoble, chief information security officer of PLDT and Smart.

On its own, Smart said it is looking into suspicious SIM purchases that might be related to the illegal activity, adding it has made significant inroads in understanding the nature, as well as the source, of the suspicious SIMs.

“Our initial investigation has shown that the fraudulent messages are being sent phone-to-phone. They don’t pass through aggregators. Most likely, the perpetrators have bought the SIMs in bulk. But through our blocking efforts, we are making it expensive for them to use this method,” added Redoble.

From June to August alone, Smart said it has blocked 167,000 numbers that were found to have been used in fraudulent activities. The network has also blocked around 342 million smishing messages in the same time frame.

Prior to the NTC’s order to block links found in text scams, Smart said it has been blocking uniform resource locators (URLs) tied to the modus. By August of this year, Smart said it has blocked more than 5.5 million malicious domains, enabling it to prevent 11 billion attempts to access phishing sites.

Smart has also reiterated its support for the mandatory registration of SIM cards. A House panel recently approved the consolidated measure requiring the registration of prepaid and postpaid SIM cards, especially to curb mobile phone-aided criminal activities such as text scams.

For its part, Globe said it has put in place stringent measures to ensure the sanctity of customer data, bar attempts of third-party breach, and guard against scammers.

“We work closely with the NTC and the NPC in pursuit of our common goal to crack down on cybercriminals and protect data privacy. GCash also coordinated with law enforcement agencies such as the PNP–Anti-Cybercrime Group and the NBI Cybercrime Division on reported scamming incidents, which have led to arrest and prosecution,” said Anton Bonifacio, Globe chief information security officer.

To date, Globe said it has spent $20 million or roughly P1.1 billion in capital expenditures to boost its capabilities in detecting and blocking scam and spam messages of international and domestic sources, including app-to-person and person-to-person SMS.

The Ayala-owned telco said it was able to block 784 million scam and spam messages from January to July this year, deactivated 14,058 scam-linked SIMs and blacklisted 8,973 others. Globe also blocked 610 domains or URLs.

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