As text scams continue to victimize Philippine mobile users, government officials are putting pressure on telcos to get the problem under control – not least because scammers are using leaked telco customer data to make their messages look genuine.
From offering high-paying remote jobs to promising easy loans, these scams are becoming more and more convincing. Recent text templates now mention the names of the recipient, making the scam seem more personalized and trustworthy.
In an interview with the Inquirer, former privacy commissioner Raymund Liboro said contractors of the three major telecommunication companies in the country are among the likely sources of the personal information that were used in these scams.
Leaky data aggregators
These contractors are data aggregators, who are responsible for collecting and selling customer data. While Philippine law requires these data aggregators to have security measures in place to protect the data they collect, it seems that these measures are not enough to prevent the data from being leaked.
“These data aggregators are under the control of these telcos. They can obligate them to make sure that private information is not leaked to criminals,” Liboro told the Inquirer.
According to him, there are also technology-based solutions that can be used to stop the spread of these text scams.
“The telcos have the capability to filter text messages by using keywords and banning the senders who are using those keywords,” Liboro said. However, he added, this might affect the average user who also uses the same words in their text messages. Also, simply blocking the number would not be enough, as scammers can just use different numbers.
Philippine Senators demand telco action
Philippine senators are already taking action to address this issue. Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva has expressed concern over the growing cases of text scams, saying that even they are not spared from these messages. He also called on the telecommunications companies to do something about it, as it not only brings up trust issues but also affects
Another senator, JV Ejercito, has also expressed support for registering SIM cards, which he believes will help in curbing text scams. Recently, a law was passed that would have required the registration of SIM cards, but it was vetoed by then President Rodrigo Duterte.
This week, telcos reassured the public that they are taking action to address the problem of text scams. Globe Telecom chief information security officer Anton Bonifacio said the company is collaborating with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the National Privacy Commission (NPC) to protect customer data and crack down against cybercriminals.
PLDT-Smart chief information security officer Angel Redoble also gave his assurance that their users’ data is safe, saying that there is no evidence to suggest that their systems have been breached and that data leaked from their systems.