Smart steps up effort in war vs SMS spamming

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Smart Communications Inc. has stepped up its efforts to stop the proliferation of SMS spam-based scam.

The company said it blocked an average of 400 to 500 mobile numbers daily from Oct. 21 to Nov. 20, which have been found to be related to SMS hoax and spam.

It has, likewise, blocked some 40 domains and IP addresses used by online scammers during this period.

These follow the recent sudden spike in reports of SMS spam, where mobile users receive unsolicited, but enticing messages from strange numbers that then lead to an elaborate online phishing scam where the target mobile users end up falling victims to fraud.

Smart has embarked on an awareness campaign through its social media accounts, calling attention to the prevalence of these SMS spam-based scam to empower customers to protect themselves against falling victim to these frauds.

“As we work tirelessly to ensure the integrity of our own cybersecurity systems, we also encourage our customers to be extremely vigilant and to be on the lookout for these SMS spamming accounts so that we can work with the authorities to prevent these scams and eventually stop these cybercriminals,” PLDT and Smart president and CEO Al Panlilio said.

Smart has also implemented blocking access to domains or website addresses and specific IP addresses which have been found to be related to these fraudulent schemes.

“We protect our customers and block these suspicious accounts on several layers. We block fraudulent accounts based on mobile numbers associated with fraud. But since mobile numbers may be easily replaced, we also block on the domain and IP address levels, as soon as we have evidence that a specific domain is used as a platform by scammers,” PLDT and Smart chief information and security officer Angel Redoble said.

“In fact we have identified and blocked about 40 domains and IP addresses involved in this scam, which leads us to believe that this is a huge and sophisticated scam by an organized global syndicate,” Redoble said.

Smart encourages mobile users to avoid entertaining questions or surveys from unknown senders, and to never provide their personal information to strangers.

It said users may also use their SMS app’s built-in blocking feature.

“We urge our customers to be very paranoid and to never share sensitive information, especially with strangers no matter how enticing the offer may sound,” Redoble said.

Smart is fully supporting the move of government agencies like the National Telecommunications Commission, National Privacy Commission, and the Department of Trade and Industry, to investigate and stop the proliferation of SMS spam-based scam and fraud.

“We are one with the NTC, the NPC, and the DTI and the rest of the concerned government agencies in protecting our customers from this scam developed by unscrupulous individuals,” Panlilio said.

Phishing scams going around the local finance industry have been evolving and are becoming very creative, coming in different forms and call-to-actions.

Globe Telecom Inc., which has deactivated 5,670 confirmed spam numbers and successfully blocked close to 71 million spam messages this year alone, said the ongoing pandemic has contributed to a surge in unsolicited marketing campaigns from digital marketers or spammers who use existing number databases culled from public information or online data.

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