Monday, December 11, 2023

After ‘monkey’ and ‘Bart Simpson’ registration, telco vows to follow stricter NTC rules

After being shown in the Senate that photos of a monkey and cartoon character Bart Simpson were used to register a SIM card, local telco Globe said it is ready to comply with new guidelines of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for a stringent post-validation process on registered SIMs to weed out fake submissions.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III asked the NTC during a budget hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 19, how it intends to prevent unscrupulous individuals from using fictitious information to register their SIM cards.

Pimentel, during the Finance Subcommittee K hearing on the proposed 2024 budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and its attached agencies, noted that lawmakers specified in the SIM Card Registration Act that only human beings would be allowed to register.

“How did the system allow the registration of non-human primates?’ Pimentel asked.

NTC commissioner Ella Blanca Lopez informed the panel that a memorandum had been issued to telecommunications companies instructing them to employ technology to identify and eliminate fake registrations.

Indeed, the NTC issued on Sept. 18 Memorandum Order No. 010-09-2023, which lays down strict guidelines on the validation of SIM registrations, including confirming IDs and details submitted by SIM users.

Under the order, telcos are required to verify information that SIM users submit in registering their SIMs before SIM activation. This verification process includes the following:

  • Comparison of SIM user data between the ID they submit and the information they enter in the SIM registration platform
  • ID verification through comparing with data from ID-issuing government agencies via a data sharing agreement “upon issuance of relevant laws, orders or rules and regulations”
  • Use of advanced technologies such as facial liveliness, live selfie, optical character recognition or facial matching
  • Barring use of stock selfies for registration

Telcos are also required to prioritize the validation of the following, and to bar the same once fraud is confirmed:

  • Multiple SIM registrations under one name, including individuals who register more than five SIMs per telco, or companies and other juridical entities that register more than 100 SIMs per telco under one name
  • SIMs on suspicion of fraud, including those flagged by telcos, reported by customers or under investigation by relevant authorities
  • SIMs registered with suspicious details, including names with random letters, ridiculous or unlikely names, questionable birthdates and addresses
  • SIMs registered with suspicious photographs (edited or artificially generated), or with fake or tampered IDs

Prior to deactivation based on the above-cited grounds, telcos shall allow a registrant in question to correct any error in SIM registration within a 15-day window. If there is no action on the part of registrant, telcos shall permanently deactivate the SIM, and the registrant may face criminal liability.

The order further requires telcos to provide a reporting platform for scam texts or calls, with feedback to within 48 hours of receipt of the report.

 “Just as we fully complied with the SIM Registration Act, Globe will promptly execute the improvements on the post-validation process for registered SIMs issued by the NTC to weed out fraudulent accounts. This will greatly complement the SIM Registration Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, and we hope that with the detailed guidelines, we’ll be able to address post-registration issues and clean up the SIM registration database,” said Froilan Castelo, Globe Group general counsel.

“As the memorandum order is immediately executory, Globe will readily commence these enhancements on the post-validation process on SIM registrations. With over 56 million registered SIMs, this process may take some time, but we’ll make sure to comb through the data thoroughly to make sure it is rid of all traces of fraud,” he said.

Castelo said Globe continues to look for ways to improve its SIM registry. Currently, Globe said its SIM registration system has no capacity to verify the authenticity of government IDs submitted for SIM registration, as this is outside the telco scope.

“We are equally frustrated that fraudsters continue to find ways to game the system. While our registration platform is going through various pain points given the rush at which we had to start SIM registrations in December, we will invest in the right tech solution to improve our system to detect fraudulent submissions,” he said.

Globe said it had nearly 54 million registrations by the end of the registration period for existing SIMs in July. The registration of new SIMs continues on its online platform and the GlobeOne app, and as of September 3, the latest NTC data showed that Globe had over 56.26 million registered SIMS.

Globe and other telcos had 15 days to design and rollout a SIM Registration platform following the release of the law’s implementing rules and regulations in December last year. Its ID validation is also limited by the lack of an ID database with which it may verify ID submissions.

Under the law, fraudulent submissions, including using false information or fake IDs, are penalized with prison time of six months to 2 years and a P300,000 fine under the SIM Registration Act.


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