Beware of hackers and tech scammers

Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

No one is spared anymore as hackers find ingenious ways of getting money from innocent folks usually through Facebook Messenger. Did you know that they are so good at it that even your bank accounts, stock holdings online and your mobile numbers regardless of carrier can be hacked?

I have heard from another friend how bad it can be and I do not wish it on anyone to go through what two of my friends went through. Here are some tips:

• One friend switched to a pre-paid SIM account for her usual phone number required by deliveries, couriers and other people you may only come across once.

• Another friend uses two phones: one postpaid for friends and family and business associates, another prepaid for people you may only encounter once or infrequently.

• Keep your Facebook account as private as it can be. Check privacy settings. But beware that one need not be a friend to be able to chat with you on Messenger.

• Change passwords regularly. I cannot over-emphasize this.

Another regular cybercrime is hacking your bank account to release money with no limit to another account or E-wallet that turns out to be somebody else’s. A friend’s savings got wiped out as she ignored and was mindlessly giving out One Time Pins (OTP) to a strange number which she actually realized was a prepaid anonymous number pretending to be her bank’s Customer Service Officer.

But we cannot dismiss these new convenient ways of banking – starting with ATMs and now banking online using passwords we easily forget. We forget our password and a legal account owner can be locked out of the system, just like my sister. All of a sudden she could not access her account online. I quickly checked the bank if she still had a balance, and thank God, she still had it intact. The bank was kind enough to help me secure her account and update her records. Never update records remotely. Try to do it face to face with a bank officer.

With all these cybercrimes one is discouraged to start learning technology but this is the way the world is going and we cannot simply be hiding from it. Who would have thought drivers could learn Waze and other apps for traveling without a hard copy of a map or asking every other sari-sari store how to reach a destination. But with Waze, you just give your address and landmark and your guests can find your place. That is what I like about technology. Sadly, what we do not like is our being vulnerable to techie thieves and cyber criminals.

I do not claim to be an expert because I myself got hoodwinked into giving money to a friend “in need” via Messenger. Yes, mindful as I may be, the criminal caught me at my softest and asked for money to be transferred and I mindlessly sent it, to help a friend. Upon checking, the impostor had already gone through her Messenger list of friends and people who may want to help her with her challenge of sending funds to someone in Manila (my friend lives abroad).

Looking back, like my friend who got hacked, I did not mind the red flags. Bad grammar is a telltale sign. If you know your supposed friend speaks well and has perfect grammar, watch how he/she talks to you.

Another is use of slang expressions – my friend would never use “sensya na” (for pasensya na)…yet, I did not mind it and just went on to lend her money via GCash.

All of us are targets of these bad elements, everyday and for many years to come for as long as we have friends and connections, for as long as we remain connected with others. We either fall for it and feel we helped a friend, or just charge it to challenges of technology and its traps.

But what we can do is be MINDFUL. Both instances could have been avoided if we were just mindful that:

• Banks will not ask for your details by phone.

• Friends will call you and not ask for donations or help via FB messenger.

• E-wallets like GCash, Paymaya and Diskartech offer security measures but we must use them (e.g. ask for name of the account holder before hitting send).

Tech is good, but we have to be wary that bad people may use it to their advantage.

It is not a solution to simply walk away from technology and refuse to learn it. It is catching up with us and the day will come when you cannot NOT know technology. So it is best to keep it simple and learn a few tips everyday.

• Write down your passwords and keep in a secure place.

• Do not use predictable passwords like birthdates or anniversaries.

• Keep only small amounts in your E-wallets. Amounts you can afford to lose and not break the bank.

• Visit your bank branch and get to know the officers and managers. It may come in handy to have a relationship with them.

The last thing you wish upon anyone is for someone to lose their identity to a stranger. So take care of calls you accept from strangers posing to be bank officers. The banks never do that.

Take care of your passwords and your credit cards. Many merchants do not even require signatures for credit card transactions anymore. List down your cards and the emergency numbers somewhere.

Do not lose your identity…to a thief. Be mindful.



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