Senate to investigate 'personalized' text scams

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2022 12:21 PM | Updated as of Sep 05 2022 05:15 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) -- The Senate is launching its own investigation into the "alarming" proliferation of spam and phishing messages which have become more "personalized," resulting to fears of possible data privacy breach.

The Senate committee on Public Services helmed by Sen. Grace Poe is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday "to look into the latest text scam issue."

“[T]hey are getting more sophisticated, adaptive and personalized in their ways with their latest targeted scam messages already containing names of mobile users. Paano at saan nila nakuha ang mga personal na impormasyong ito? This is a very dangerous and alarming matter that needs urgent answers and solutions," Poe said.

Poe also seeks to determine how the passage of a subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration bill can respond to this kind of cybersecurity threat. 

“Let’s intensify the crackdown versus these scammers by institutionalizing a protection mechanism for millions of mobile phone users in the country," Poe said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said government agencies need to "devise an effective intervention" to prevent the proliferation of spam messages.
 
"The inclusion of the receiver’s name indicates a breach of consumers’ right to privacy and this breach stirs fear that their personal details may have already been compromised," Gatchalian said.

Sen. Nancy Binay said she was "stunned" after receiving a text spam with her name in it and feared that "organized crime rings may soon tap into other personal info."

"Sa totoo lang, nagulat ako—it's both an unexplained fear and a terrifying surprise.... Nang maka-receive ako ng text message sa personal phone ko with my name, I was so shocked dahil never kong ginagamit ang personal phone ko in online transactions... So, paano nakuha ang number ko?" Binay shared.

"Nakakatakot na," she added.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said the matter has become "urgent."

"Napaka-urgent po na masagot natin agad ang lumalaking problema ng text scam... Ibang level na po ng data leak na ito dahil mismong pangalan na ng subscriber ang lumilitaw na sa mga text scam," he said. 
 
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) had said data from COVID-19 contact-tracing could have been used in the recent surge in personalized spam text messages.

The public had been reporting an increase in SMS-based scams or smishing, especially during the pandemic, when digital adoption also accelerated. 

Earlier investigations by the NTC showed that some of these spamming practices could be part of a global organized syndicate. 

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