We are gladdened by what the National Privacy Commission has said that the public should expect fewer SMS spam shortly, the country’s telecommunications providers were ordered to ramp up efforts to fight cybercrime.
NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro told Teleradyo cybercrime “has been reduced” and the agency has ordered the telcos to intensify their anti-spam campaigns.
Regulators earlier asked telcos to use their SMS blasting capabilities to warn users against clicking the link contained in spam messages.
If they click, they will be led to phishing sites where they will be asked to invest their own money before receiving promised commissions stated in the SMS job offer, Liboro said.
Globe Telecom and Smart Communications Inc. said they have been blocking numbers, messages and IP addresses linked to illegal activities.
Liboro said investigations led the NPC to believe that a global organized syndicate could be behind the scam, adding the agency was also looking at data aggregators that could have been used by cybercriminals for spam.
Mobile users in the country recently reported an increase in SMS messaging used by fraudsters to obtain personal data and eventually get money by offering job opportunities.
Liboro said this was not an isolated case and was also happening in other countries, such as India and Singapore.
Meanwhile, we support the move of Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas who filed a resolution urging government agencies to take immediate legal action to stop the alleged misuse of contact information following a spike in spam text messages and online scams.
Vargas aptly said that if this were left unchecked, these schemes could be used as tools to spread disinformation and fake news during the elections.
His words: “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.”
In House Resolution 2378, Vargas said the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, and the National Privacy Commission should conduct a thorough investigation.
The Quezon city lawmaker noted growing concern over the rise in spam, scam, and phishing attempts through text messages.
“Speculations from consumers that their phone numbers might have been sourced from contact-tracing forms, indicating a breach of privacy, have surfaced and must be addressed diligently and immediately,” he said in his resolution.
An official of the NPC earlier said the recent text scams were orchestrated by international syndicates, but said it has yet to find out if the personal information came from contact tracing forms.
We agree with Malacañang which warned that these messages constituted a violation of data privacy rights.
Vargas said the telecommunication provider Globe Telecom had reportedly deactivated 5,670 confirmed spam numbers and blocked 71 million spam messages this year.
The company had also said unsolicited marketing campaigns from digital marketers or spammers use “existing databases culled from public information or online data.”
There has also been an increase in reports of dubious financial transactions, with the Anti-Money Laundering Council, recording a 57 per cent increase in reports of suspicious transactions, indicating a surge in financial scams, he added.
“This spate of unwanted text messages in forms of spams, scams, and phishing attempts is not only an inconvenience to Filipino consumers but also indicate a clear breach of data privacy and a possible illegal sale of private data, violating Republic Act 10173 or the DataPrivacy Act of 2012,” Vargas said.
He added it was the duty of government agencies “to protect consumers and the fundamental human right to privacy.”
“Government should stop those who take advantage of the grim situation of the pandemic for their own interests by breaching the data privacy of individuals and proliferating spam and scam text messages,” Vargas said.
Those who take advantage of the situation should be chained. (ai/mtvn)