NTC: SMS scammers may have used contact tracing data

MANILA — Data from COVID-19 contact tracing may have been used in the recent wave of personalized spam, a National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) official said on Friday.

Some Filipinos have recently raised concerns about scam text messages mentioning the full names of phone users.

When asked if the personal information in the spam messages could have come from contact tracing modes, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios replied, “Mayroon pong posibilidad.”

“Para ma-trace ka, naroon ang personal information mo et cetera, so may posibilidad po ‘yan… These are possible sources of offences,” he told a televised public briefing.

(There is a possibility. For you to be found, your personal information has to be there, et cetera, so there is a possibility.)

Contact tracing efforts in the Philippines have seen the public entrust their personal information to institutions and the national government through paper forms or digital applications, especially when tighter COVID-19 restrictions were still in place. .

The NTC is coordinating with the National Privacy Commission, which is investigating the proliferation of scam-related text messages, Cabarios said.

“Dapat po kasi may maparusahan dito kasi may nag-leak ng information,” he said.

“Hindi naman pupuwede na saan-saan lang kinuha ‘yan. Mayroon pong nag-leak ng information kasi bakit ‘yung phone number, mayroong pangalan? Kung phone number lang puwedeng sabihin na … random pero this can pangalan eh.”

(Someone should be punished here because information has been leaked. It couldn’t have come from just anywhere. Otherwise, why would the names be there? If it’s just the phone number, it could still be considered random, but these posts already contain names.)

Cabarios urged the public and telecom operators to block mobile numbers linked to scams.

“Ang una dapat ay walang mag-accept, dapat walang paloloko. Kasi kung walang paloloko, walang kikitain ‘yang mga’ yan,” he said.

(First of all, nobody should accept, believe these messages. If nobody is fooled, they wouldn’t make money.)

The official said it was also important to pass a law on SIM card registration so that the government can track down and prosecute those involved in fraud or spam.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte had vetoed one version of the bill, saying further study was needed because of its social media disposition.

Section 2 of the bill states that “the state shall require registration of SIM cards for electronic devices and social media accounts by all users.”

But Cabarios said, “It’s not the whole SIM card anymore.

(It is better if all SIM cards are registered. This will greatly reduce those who have bad intentions using these numbers.)

The NTC recently asked telecommunications companies to “text” subscribers a notice against SMS scams from August 31 through September 6. Telecom companies have also been asked to “speed up the process of blocking SIM cards that are used to perpetrate these fraudulent activities”. .”

Filipinos have reported an increase in SMS scams or smishing, especially during the pandemic when digital adoption has also accelerated.