Privacy watchdog probes SMS spam; forms inter-agency body vs cybercrimes

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2021 07:50 PM

MANILA - The National Privacy Commission said it has formally launched an investigation on the proliferating SMS scams or smishing. 

In a statement dated Nov. 29, the agency said it would look into whether telcos exercised "due diligence" and accountability in transacting with data aggregators.

The NPC said data aggregators were linked to sending of text messages offering fraudulent jobs and investment schemes to millions.

Globe Telecom, Smart Communications Inc and DITO Telecommunity were ordered Monday to submit within 5 days documents and information to provide the commission data flows and transactions involving aggregators.

Aside from telcos, the NPC said orders were also sent to Union Bank and GCash (Mynt) or the main payment channels where the victims were directed to deposit investments in the scam.

Thousands of Filipinos earlier reported having received SMS spam offering jobs and other promos that cybersecurity experts said were too good to be true. 

A global organized syndicate is likely behind the scheme, the NPC said. 

The NPC is also pushing for "call and text attestation" to prevent a "privacy disaster." Attestation will help the agency trace the owner of numbers used in calling or sending texts as it would be listed in a registry, it said. 

Globe and Smart said they have been blocking numbers, messages and IP addresses linked to the scam.

In a meeting last Nov. 24, telcos said they traced the smishing and text spams to China and India-web-hosted companies. 

The NPC said Globe identified a data broker, Macrokiosk, tapped by a firm called China Skyline Telecom "as the primary source of messages that share the theme of job hiring and contain a Whatsapp contact link."

Globe said some 1.55 million SMS spam were sent through its network from Nov. 11 to 21 alone.

The NPC also said an inter-agency group was formed to amplify the campaign against cybercrime. 

The group includes the NPC, the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, Department of Justice, Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Labor and Employment, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, National Security Council and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

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-- with a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News