International syndicate may be behind personalized text scam, says DICT chief

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2022 04:47 PM

MANILA — An international criminal syndicate may be behind the personalized scam text messages that saw a surge in the Philippines recently, the Department of Information and Communications Technology said on Friday.

DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy said the department is working with international law enforcement agencies on its investigation into the matter. 

Uy, however, requested an executive session with lawmakers to disclose details on the progress of DICT’s probe, so as not to give away their strategy.

“We actually have already initiated our investigation. We are on top of it right now... This is more than meets the eye. There are criminal syndicates really that are operating, and these criminal syndicates are international," Uy told the House Committee on Appropriations deliberating on the agency’s proposed 2023 budget.

"We are working not just locally, but with international law enforcement agencies on this regard,” he added.

The DICT has formed a task force, and is working to create a complaint center against text scams.

“Given the public clamor to address this, I’ve actually formed a task force to address this quickly. We are formulating already guidelines and a singular more responsive complaint center to address this,” Uy said.

Uy also appealed to Congress to allocate intelligence funds to DICT to help address scams, among other issues. The DICT had an P800-million intelligence fund in 2020, but no budget was allocated for this for 2021 to 2023. 

“Sa dami ng reklamo regarding sa mga cyber scams, computer crimes, child exploitation and pornography, medyo may kailangan din po kaming intel, cyber-intelligence capacity. Ito ay importante upang matukoy natin ang mga criminal," he said.

(Because of the surge in cyber scams, computer crimes, child exploitation and pornography, we need intel, cyber-intelligence capacity. This is crucial for us to pinpoint the criminals)

"Mga sindikato ito, at napaka-sophisticated ng mga technology, mga equipment. Very skilled ang mga taong hina-hire nila, dahil napaka-laking pera nito. So we definitely need an intel budget for that, even if just 5 percent of what was allocated before, that will go a long way in us being able to track down these cyber criminals," he added.

(We're up against syndicates with sophisticated technology and equipment. They hire very skilled people, with huge sums involved)

The National Privacy Commission earlier said the data used to spread the SMS spam is unlikely to have been collected from a data breach or from contact tracing forms.

The agency urged the public to screenshot the spam message and report it to reportsmishing@privacy.gov.ph, or call (02) 8234-2228 local 114-115.

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