Monday, July 15, 2024

As CICC flexes power over telcos, Smart bans over 600,000 fraud-related mobile numbers

PLDT-owned operator Smart Communications said on Tuesday, July 2, that it has blacklisted more than 600,000 fraud-related mobile numbers as a way of clamping down on scammers who use fraudulently registered SIMs to commit crimes.

The disclosure comes after the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) required Smart to submit an official report on the status of its compliance to Republic Act 11934 or the SIM Card Registration Law.

CICC executive director Alexander K. Ramos made the call following the proliferation of unregistered SIM cards that are being used in text scams and in various forms of cybercrimes.

The CICC said it is closely working with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to find solutions to the continuous proliferation of text scam despite the implementation of the SIM Card Registration Law.

Ramos said the agency is alarmed when on-going inquiry found that unregistered SIM cards were being used to receive online bank transaction messages.

“We have been receiving a litany of complaints from the public that they continue to receive unwanted text messages either offering them loans, online gambling, cryptocurrency investments and job offers from unknown persons identified with Smart issued numbers,” Ramos stated.

“It’s time for the government to get tough on these telcos,” he added.

Law enforcement authorities who clamped down on organized crime including call center type operations recently seized thousands of SIM cards with various faked identities and unregistered SIM cards used to defraud the public

Majority of the SIM cards are prepaid Smart SIM cards, according to the CICC. Other SIM cards seized on record with GCash accounts also include Globe prepaid cards.

The SIM Registration Act or Republic Act No. 11934 commonly known as the SIM card law, mandates the registration of all SIM cards before activation. The law which took effect on Dec.27,2022, was intended to curb cybercriminal activities and the spread of text scams.

A total of 113,969,014 SIM cards were registered as of July 30, 2023. This accounts for 67.83 percent of the 168,016,400 SIM cards previously thought to be in circulation.

Ramos said that some subscribers continue to receive scam messages from unregistered SIM cards. “Organized cybercrime syndicates have been using unregistered SIM cards and or SIM cards with stolen identities to send fraudulent SMS with dangerous links,” he said.

For its part, Smart said it has already blacklisted more than 615,788 mobile numbers tied to illicit and fraudulent activities, including spamming and SMShing scams, from January to May of this year. This number includes all fraudulently registered SIMs, purged through Smart’s strict validation process of all SIM registrations.

Smart said that since December last year, in compliance with the NTC’s directive, it has implemented enhanced verification mechanisms, including the adoption of “live selfie” and liveness checks, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), facial recognition and matching, disabling of the upload of stock selfies, and verification of registrations prior to activation.

“We actively collaborate with the CICC and the NTC, our peers in the telecom industry, and other allies from the private and public sectors, to have a comprehensive response to the menace of SMShing and phishing scammers. We remain deeply committed to providing a safe and secure communications platform and digital services for Filipinos,” said PLDT and Smart chief information security officer Jojo G. Gendrano.

In addition to stricter SIM registration controls, Smart said it has also engaged their provincial distributors, regional dealers and other trade partners to ensure the security and integrity of the sale and distribution process of Smart SIMs.

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