The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) recently reported that the Philippines has exceeded 95 million registered Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards, with only two weeks remaining until the July 25 deadline.

Although this news seems positive, there’s an unfortunate downside.

Despite the substantial number of SIM cards complying with the mandatory SIM Card law (RA 11934), digital scammers persist in their efforts to exploit unsuspecting individuals.

These scammers are still actively pursuing their deceitful schemes.

“I still receive calls similar to the modus operandi they used on me almost a year ago,” shared a stall owner in Sto. Tomas City, Batangas, who fell victim to a caller pretending to be a representative from her digital payment platform provider (DPPP).

Her case involved a cunning voice phishing (vishing) scam.

Vishing refers to the fraudulent practice of making phone calls or leaving voice messages, posing as reputable companies, with the intention of coaxing individuals into revealing sensitive personal information, such as bank details and credit card numbers, as stated by Google.

“Fortunately, there is a withdrawal limit on my bank account. Otherwise, my hard-earned savings could have been wiped out,” she remarked.

Nevertheless, the fraudster was able to draw off from her around P200,000 in cold cash

“I believed and trusted that the person was a genuine representative of my DPPP who told me to transfer funds to another account, promising me more perks, bonuses, and discounts on purchases.”

The moral of the story: “We should never trust anyone claiming to be a representative of our banks, DPPP, or other digital payment platforms unless we are directly speaking to them face-to-face.”

The government expects to eliminate such cases and similar incidents as the deadline for the SIM Registration Law on July 25, 2023 approaches.

According to NTC data, there are currently 95,029,414 registered cards, which account for approximately 56.56 percent of the total 168,016,400 SIM cards nationwide.

The agency further reported that among the telecommunications companies, Smart Communications Inc. has the highest number of registrants with 44,982,292, followed by Globe Telecom Inc. with 43,709,775, and Dito Telecommunity with 6,337,347 registered cards.

This new law, enacted during the early stages of the Marcos administration, aims to promote responsible SIM card usage and provide law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to combat crimes involving their misuse.

It also penalizes fraudulent registration and grants law enforcement access to user data for investigating crimes committed using mobile phones.

In April, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the lead agency responsible for implementing RA 11934, announced its objective of registering at least 100 million SIM cards nationwide.

Initially, April 26, 2023, was set as the first deadline for mandatory registration.

However, due to the low turnout, an additional 90-day extension was approved by Malacañang, which is now set to conclude on July 25, 2023.

Following this extension, the DICT cautioned the public about a potential increase in electronic communication-related crimes, such as mobile text scams and phishing. Secretary Ivan John Uy of the DICT explained that “scammers were given an extra 90-day period to engage in these illicit activities.”

But their days are numbered.

Simultaneously, Secretary Uy reminded everyone that all unregistered SIM cards will be automatically deactivated after July 25, 2023, and users will no longer have access to digital applications and services. (ai/mnm)