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NPC probes telcos on fake jobs, investment schemes

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
NPC probes telcos on fake jobs, investment schemes
In a statement, the NPC yesterday said it ordered telcos Globe Telecom Inc., Smart Communications Inc. and Dito Telecommunity Corp. to submit documents and information on their data flows and transactions involving data aggregators within five days.
Screenshots by Interaksyon | Photo by Dean Moriarty via Pixabay

MANILA, Philippines — The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has launched a probe into whether telecommunication companies (telcos) and payment platforms exercise due diligence and accountability in transacting with data aggregators in relation to text messages offering fake jobs and investment Schemes.

An interagency group has also been created to fight smishing and text spams.

In a statement, the NPC yesterday said it ordered telcos Globe Telecom Inc., Smart Communications Inc. and Dito Telecommunity Corp. to submit documents and information on their data flows and transactions involving data aggregators within five days.

The NPC also sent similar order to the Union Bank of the Philippines and Globe Fintech Innovations Inc., which operates the mobile wallet GCash, as these are the main payment channels where victims are being directed in text messages to deposit their investments.

It said the investment accounts become inaccessible to the victims after they have deposited a large amount in exchange for getting a bigger commission.

Last week, the NPC summoned the data protection officers of telcos, e-commerce players and banks to discuss current and future steps to address the increase in spam text messages.

The NPC said data aggregators are involved in the proliferation of smishing activities or text messages that trick mobile users to click on links to malicious websites and give sensitive information.

It added that the data aggregators could be legal entities tapped by companies to deal with telcos in sending promotions and other messages to customers.

“At the meeting with the NPC on Nov. 24, the data protection officers of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications revealed a complex chain of data aggregation and handling, involving data brokers, that is bringing new challenges to compliance and enforcement,” Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said.

The NPC said the telcos traced the smishing and text spams to China and India web-hosted companies.

In its report to the NPC, Globe identified data broker Macrokiosk tapped by a firm named China Skyline Telecom, as the primary source of messages that “share the theme of job hiring and contain a Whatsapp contact link.”

From Nov. 11 to 21 this year, 1.55 million such messages were sent through Globe’s network.

The NPC is pushing for call and text attestation to trace the owner of the number being used for calling or sending text messages.

It also called on the telcos to continue blocking data aggregators, as well as the numbers, domains and internet protocol addresses that enable smishing and text spams.

As part of efforts to combat smishing, the NPC said an interagency group was formed last Nov. 26.

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

The group has the CICC as lead agency to receive complaints from mobile phone users and forward the numbers used by scammers to telcos so these can be blocked.

The NPC said agencies including the DOJ, DTI, DICT and CICC have committed to step up efforts on consumer protection and go after perpetrators of the scam.

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