Philippines telcos block tens of millions of scam text messages daily

scam text messages
Image by Ekahardiwito | Bigstockphoto

More than 23 million scam text messages were blocked by PLDT in just three days from 11 to 14 June, which is the latest demonstration of growing cybersecurity risks in the nation.

In a statement released on 20 June, PLDT said that the malicious messages contained links to so-called phishing websites that posed as legitimate organizations such as banks, tour operators, and recruitment agencies.

The spike in attempts to defraud consumers comes as the Philippines’ economy continues to rebound from the impacts of the pandemic, with businesses and government agencies urging people to conduct more transactions online.

Furthermore, consumers believe that contact tracing efforts, wherein personal data is collected at workplaces, malls, and restaurants, have made them more vulnerable to scams.

“The unabated surge of text scams has brought further hardship and distress on our people who are already mired in debts,” said Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services. “We cannot allow these scammers and the syndicates behind these text schemes to prey on our countrymen who are already slumped by the effects of the pandemic and the skyrocketing cost of fuel and other basic goods.”

Poe further called on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to intensify their efforts to put an end to the text scam problem in the country.

In May, the NTC released an order to all telcos instructing them to warn consumers not to fall for job offers with high salaries that turned out to be scams. Telcos were requested to comply with the order by 4 June.

PLDT claimed that it had blocked almost 78,000 SIM cards involved in stealing personal data in 2021. The telco also said it invested 3 billion pesos ($55.6 million) to counter cyberthreats. Meanwhile, PLDT’s competitor Globe Telecom said that it had blocked over a billion text messages that seemed dubious.

Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the proposed Sim Card Registration Act in April 2022. The Act received polarized reactions, with some people saying it would help in curbing cybercrime and scams, while others claimed that it would infringe on the privacy of consumers.

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